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Steel Sponge

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26. Mirrior

My name is Phoebe Ashfield, and I come from a world that is brimming with magical activity. Of course, it is also populated by magic specialists of any discernible name: mages, wizards, witches, sorcerers, sorceresses, and spell casters. Oh yeah, and then there are some without magical abilities, but they are treated as fairly regardless. Anyways, this is the world I live in, a world that goes by the name of Mirrim.

I am a rookie mage at Livingstone Magic Academy. Being a teenager, I am nearing the point in my life where I can become a professional spell-caster like the adults in my family, while I am old enough to look after a business on my own. My true passion is being a baker, and I work at my family business, Sweets Serendipity. My family has been able to make it the hot spot within our home in Looking Glass Lane, so much so that the monarch, Queen Arora herself, would visit it every once in a while for our famous desserts.

There’s just one thing about Mirrim that makes it unique, our reflections aren’t the same as how we appear in shadows and glass. It’s not that we can’t see our own faces at all. We can’t see them through normal means, as we usually see a different image right in front of us. That’s not all there is to. Everyone’s reflection is different, and even if some are identical in appearance, they can be made distinct from their traits. Not everyone has a reflection though, and I’ve always seen these kinds of people being referred to as vampires. My own reflection, Tarok, consistently warns me about them and tells me that I shouldn’t dwell over them too.

These reflections, as Tarok tells me, are from a world parallel to Mirrim known as Riooir. I’ve also been told that the reflections are born the moment that we are, that they are immortal, their appearances do not change whatsoever through natural circumstances like age, and they either die once we do, or they just pass themselves onto a new human life. I can’t help but feel curious just knowing that there is a world parallel to the one that I live in, and I’ve also been warned that accessing Riooir, as an outsider, is forbidden, as people have become vampires by ‘going off the grid,’ losing their reflections and their connections to them in the process. Being aware of the dangers of traversing outside my own world, I try not to let my thoughts get the better of me…that is until I gave in to temptation.

As I should’ve pointed out, this story is not just about me, it is Tarok’s story as well, and this is the story of how we’ve got ourselves trapped and exploring our opposite worlds, and of how we began working towards restoring our connection and returning to our original homes safe and sound.

In view was the outside of Looking Glass Lane during the late afternoon. In the foreground stood the Sweets Serendipity bakery front and center from the perspective of Phoebe Ashfield, the eponymous fifteen year-old dark-skinned girl. She wears a frilled dress donned in a pattern of pink and white with a red ribbon-like bow tied to the back and around her waist, all while being covered by her bright yellow bakery apron. The rest of her apparel includes crimson red leggings, white knee-socks, pink sneakers with white laces and soles, and a couple small red ribbon bows tied to the sides of her ash brown-colored hair in the form of buns. On her person was a coral-colored wand, shaped like a baton, and a backpack with a white and light blue pattern. She rode her pink cruiser bike across to the Sweets Serendipity bakery while her shadow, the image of a feline, sprinted alongside Phoebe at the speed of her cycling.

The streets appeared to be active with human pedestrians and their respective, unique reflections cast by the near-dissolving sunlight.

“Ey, I’m walkin’ here, I’m walkin’ here!” A reflective shadow of a crab spoke.

“Hey, where are you? I told you to meet me at dusk,” A rhinoceros-shaped shadow spoke to an adjacent giraffe-shaped shadow where its head was concealed by the shadow of a building.

“My head’s caught in the clouds. I can hardly see anything,” the giraffe shadow responded.

“I should’ve gotten a down payment on those mosquitos,” a voice uttered from a phantom-shaped shadow.

Phoebe and her reflection, Tarok, heard the collective voices of the civilians and their shadowed reflections alike across the boulevard as they strode on their path to the sweet scent emitting the girl’s family-owned bakery.

“Hey, you know that I’m very used to this method of travel when I have to catch up to you like this,” Tarok’s sunlit silhouette spoke in a near-breathless tone.

“Don’t worry about it,” Phoebe responded. “My family’s place will close up in half an hour, so you’ll get yourself break after we head back from my errand…right on schedule.”

At that moment, Phoebe stopped her bicycle, pressing her foot on the brake as she and Tarok reached the walkway where the bakery stood in place.

“Okay, so we got the eggs, milk, baking soda, baking powder, wheat germ, and apples that you were asked to get,” Tarok said, referring to the items that Phoebe was carrying on her pack. “There isn’t anything else and you don’t have to go through the trouble of going back before my shadow disappears with the sun, right?”

“Why would I forget?” Phoebe questioned. “I’ve made it my goal to become a baker here, so I am taking my work at Sweets Serendipity seriously.”

Before walking inside, Phoebe peered through the window to see if any particular customers stood there and sensed trouble when she spotted a pair of three that were familiar to her, standing by the counter in front of her two parents who manage the business, Flint and Auburn Ashfield.

“Oh look, your business rival and her parents are trying to stir things up again,” Tarok remarked. “This can’t end well for me when the least I can do is sit and watch.”

“It’s like Valerie planned this as soon as she knew that I’ve gone out to pick up ingredients for my parents,” Phoebe added.

Just to explain something for a moment, when you’re running a thriving baked goods business, it’s expected to deal with some competitors; fierce competition in the case of the Connellys who run another desserts business named Cream Of The Crop from a few blocks away. Obviously, Valerie is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Connelly, and she is the same age as I am. Keep in mind that I partake in my family’s business out of passion for baking and I don’t do it to compete, and yet Valerie makes it hard for me to help run the shop.

Valerie has an intimidating reflection, as it takes on the form of a Doberman. It seems to run in her family too. Her mom’s reflection resembles a king cobra while her dad’s is a condor, two life forms that tower over the reflections of my parents. On my mom’s side is a reflection that resembles a bishop while my dad has a spidermonkey. Mine is a kitty cat, and he’s a wussy to boot, no matter how much he tries to deny it.

“As you are the managers of this establishment, I’d like to speak to you have a problem that we’ve had with your service,” Mrs. Connelly argued.

“What do you want to tell us this time, Annette?” Mr. Ashfield asked.

“My husband, Claude, and I have been dissatisfied with how you treat your fellow senior citizens when your employees couldn’t provide us with a senior discount,” Mrs. Connelly continued.

“We provide a discount for customers ages 55 and over,” Mrs. Ashfield spoke with a stern tone. “You’re both 48, so you’re not fooling us.”

“Why should we have to follow your rules?” Mrs. Connelly chided. “We’re getting old like our own daughters, so we should be permitted to have a senior discount! Refusing service to your customers is a bad look for your business, and when we demand something, you do us a favor and satisfy every customer’s need! The customer is always right you know!”

“That doesn’t mean that you’re right to attack our bakery for how we provide our service with your falsehoods,” Mr. Ashfield argued. “We are not getting involved in your affairs. Please leave our establishment and keep your business to yourselves like we are. Leave our employees, my wife, and I all alone while you’re at it.”

“Besides, the last time you came here to complain, you threatened to have our business go under because you wanted a different design for the wrappers of the one-dozen cupcakes that you’ve ordered, when you never specifically asked for us

“If you’re just going to show up here to make excuses to damage our family business, then we may have to make you all prohibited from our shop.”

“You dare question our authority, Flint?” Mr. Connelly snarled. “Just you wait, Cream Of The Crop will take down Sweets Serendipity in cold-“

Everyone in the room stopped as they saw the door open up to show Phoebe entering inside as the two parents continued to bicker, causing for Mr. Connelly to stall his words for a moment.

“Oh, look who just came back, it’s our favorite employee!” Mr. Connelly continued with a rushed change in tone.

“Hey mom, hey dad,” Phoebe spoke in a tone that suggested that she knew what was transpiring. “I brought back the ingredients you needed for our shop. Hey Valerie,” she glared at her rival with a look of discontentment for one instance before her eyes are focused on her parents.

Meanwhile, Valerie glared at Phoebe back with malevolence through her smug grin. She was donned in her formal family workplace uniform, in contrast to Phoebe’s combination of casual and formal wear. It consists of a gray and black pinafore dress with a white apron tied over it. The sleeves of her gray dress were puffed while the black sleeves underneath were close to her wrists at length. She wore gray stockings alongside her black dress shoes and the top of her long, golden brown hair was covered by her mauve-colored beret.

The hair of the Connelly parents was a lighter shade of brown due to their age. In place of a pinafore dress, Valerie’s father wears black dress pants, a white button-on shirt with a dark-gray short-sleeved wool shirt underneath, and the usual Cream Of The Crop branded apron over it, while he wore nothing over his short hair. The way that Valerie’s mother dressed was classier compared to her daughter, as she wore heelless dark red pumps in place of dress shoes, black stockings, and in place of Valerie’s dress was a taupe-colored cardigan and gray blouse combo, with a long black skirt underneath. Her hair was styled in form of a bob.

Being managers of their own bakery, Phoebe’s parents were dressed as formally. Her father donned a burgundy sweater vest with a short-sleeved white button-up worn underneath and the Sweets Serendipity brand yellow apron worn over. He also wears brown dress pants and black dress shoes alongside his brown wool socks. Phoebe’s mother wears a puffed sleeve dress over her apron, red at the top, and white at the bottom. She wore crimson red slacks, white crew length cotton socks, and dress shoes that were yellow like her apron, although in a darker shade.

The shadow silhouette of the Doberman reflected from Valerie snarled straight at Tarok’s shadow, who returned with a few hisses.

“Now should be a good time for you all to leave our shop,” Mr. Ashfield spoke. “We’ve had enough of your charades and you showed up at an inconvenient time to complain.”

“No, this just isn’t fair!” Valerie uttered. “You can’t just kick us out of here! I like coming here at Sweets Serendipity, I do! Phoebe’s baking is just marvelous, isn’t that right?”

“Come on, I know you’re lying through your teeth,” Phoebe responded.

Without warning, the door opens up again to reveal a boy around the same age as Phoebe and Valerie entering inside. He wore a diamond blue parka, white cargo pants, black socks, and electric blue sneakers with white laces. His skin was tanner than the Connellys as his hair was a deep brown. His shadow reflecting behind him resembles a woman with streaks of hair flowing around, giving Phoebe the impression that he seems to be a charmer.

“Wilhelm, I didn’t see you coming by,” said Phoebe.

“You’d be surprised to know how fast you can go places with the use of magic,” Wilhelm pointed out. “So what brings the family running Cream Of The Crop here?”

“We’re about to close shop for the day, so if you’re here to order our baked goods, then you’re too late,” Mrs. Ashfield informed.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Wilhelm. “I was just wandering downtown and I thought I could treat myself to something from this bakery.”

“That’s okay,” Valerie uttered. “My family’s shop has closed for the day, but if you’d like, we can give you an apple pie later today, no charge.”

“What’s all the commotion for?” Wilhelm asked. “I think both Sweets Serendipity and The Cream Of The Crop have equally good food, so why can’t you come to that agreement and make peace with each other?”

“The one thing that matters more is whose desserts you like better, my family’s or hers,” Valerie argued, referring to Phoebe and herself, “and it matters a lot to my mom, my dad, and to me to be proven that our bakery is the best in this town!”

“So it’s a bet, then?” Phoebe questioned. “We determine which of our family’s bakeries is better by letting some boy be the judge of whose baking he likes the most?”

“Exactly,” Valerie answered. “Of course you know this means war, Phoebe.”

“Well I never asked if our bakeries could go to war,” Phoebe replied, “but since you’ve challenged me, then we’ll be competing against each other for our shops afterschool at Livingstone Magic Academy, tomorrow. Do we have a deal?”

“How could I say no? I can’t wait.”

“If our daughters agree, then we have no choice but to let them arrange this,” Mrs. Ashfield remarked.

“So it’s a deal then,” said Mrs. Connelly. “It’s been nice doing business with you, Flint, Auburn. It’s about time we’ve headed off.”

“Thank you,” Mr. Ashfield responded. “After this is all over, then perhaps we can begin to sort out our differences maturely.”

“If you want mature, we’ll give you mature,” Mr. Connelly asserted. “I’d like to see us settle in court. You shall all suffer while enjoy our continued success.”

“Good for you, Claude, sir,” Mr. Ashfield finished in a sardonic tone. “I’ll be sure to let my lawyer know that you won’t be able to get anywhere by using blackmail against us.”

 Like so, the Connellys exited the vicinity. Claude slammed the door closed on the way out, as Wilhelm left himself inside.

“I feel sorry that you had to deal with this drama,” Wilhelm said towards the Ashfields.

“Lately, we’ve been dealing with them threatening to take down our business at least three times a week,” Mrs. Ashfield point out.

“Alright, so I’d best be leaving now. I’ll be waiting to taste what Valerie and Phoebe will be making for me tomorrow.” Wilhelm finished.

After Wilhelm left, Phoebe brought herself upstairs to her bedroom to relieve from her stress. She came over to her bathroom mirror to face her reflection in the glass, showing himself in front of Phoebe as the gray-furred tomcat that she so is familiar with. Phoebe saw of her reflection to have a ball of blue yarn in paw.

“Why do I have to get myself caught in one of her squabbles?” Phoebe questioned, referring to Valerie.

“I think it’s because she’s such a brat, just like her parents,” Tarok remarked.

“Buzz off, kitty,” Phoebe muttered.

“Keep making jokes, Phoebe, but you know that I can’t just disappear,” Tarok replied. “When we do though, we are kept out of view by Riooir for when our counterparts are some places where a shadow can’t be cast, when they’re getting dressed, or undressed…you know, moments like that.” He fidgeted with his blue yarn as he rambled on.

“One of these days, I’d like to be able to see what your world outside of mine looks like.”

“I’ve lectured you about this before. It is forbidden for people to intermingle with their reflections by crossing paths in the opposite world. I know we can only see the worlds surrounding us, and not the worlds parallel to ours through mirrors, but that’s how things are mandated. Besides, we already understand each other very well. You’re a friendly and polite girl, if also stubborn at times and a little too soft, and you’re a thriving pastry chef at a young chef who still needs to work on her magic. Then you have me, I’m a literal cat burglar who’s prone to getting into mischief, smuggling yarns and tuna fish because I can’t always afford them. I’m pretty certain that our experiences wouldn’t be so different if we lived on different sides. Even though you’d still have to deal with unpleasant folks like Valerie, you can get along with anyone while I can’t.”

“So why don’t you try to keep yourself out of trouble?”

“I worry about my own life choices, and you worry about your own. Besides, while it’s one thing to deal with Namrebod, who is just as intimidating as Valerie, your parents’ reflections had to just happen being the bounty hunters that I get chased by. Like I’ve been reminding you, when I’m not busy having to be your reflection, I’m spending my days causing trouble or getting in trouble and paying the costs for my habits.”

“And I’ve been trying to remind you, because my parents’ reflections know that you are my reflection, you shouldn’t continue worrying about getting apprehended by them. You won’t be as long as I’m still around.”

“I’m sorry. We shouldn’t keep going over this talk while you should be focusing on the cooking contest that you’ve arranged with your rival. As your reflection, it should be my job to help motivate you. If I could make some suggestions on what you should bake for that Wilhelm fellow, you should take the easy route and make him one of your specialty bakery treats.”

“I appreciate your ideas, but I do already have a good idea after thinking about his cultural background. Of course, I’m going to have to run by the supermarket tomorrow before the event so that I would have all the things that I need to bake my dish.”

“Then I’ll wish you the best of luck. You better win it, so that I could have something to brag about, let alone being able to rub it in Namrebod’s face.”

“We’ll talk again tomorrow in the morning, okay? I know you could use some rest.” Phoebe yawned as she stepped out of her bathroom and back into her bedroom to start capping off her day.

“You’re so generous. I like that about you,” Tarok finished before Phoebe walked past her bathroom mirror and Tarok’s form returned as a shadow.

It was now the morning of the contest arranged by the Ashfields and the Connellys. Sweets Serendipity’s morning shift, which usually starts at eight, had just started for Phoebe (two hours before she would have to drop by her usual baking goods and supplies outlet and attend her Magic Academy) and her parents. It was at this time that Mirrim’s elusive sovereign, Queen Arora, showed herself inside as the first customer for the morning. The Queen’s reflection took on the form of a large and menacing dragon that made Tarok yowl in fear once he takes notice of it.

“Good day to you Mr. and Mrs. Ashfield,” The Queen spoke, “and to you too, Miss Ashfield. How are you spending your morning here?”

“I’m just here to open up shop with my parents for a while,” Phoebe pointed out.

“What for, may I ask?” The Queen questioned.

“I got persuaded into a competitive baking contest by our business rivals. I’m sure you know what the Connellys place is called,” Phoebe replied.

“Oh yes, Cream Of The Crop?” The Queen replied. “Before you go on ahead with your own important business, I’d like for you to bake me one of your finest banana caramel crepes and then I’ll be the judge on whether or not your family’s baking business is the best in this province.”

“Yeah, yeah, I actually know it’s because we’re required by your law to serve you first whenever you visit. Besides, I’m not doing this because I care about being the best.”

Afterwards, Phoebe went underway with the Queen’s request and finished her order in less than ten minutes, serving the dish on a plate right in front of her seat. The Queen returned her usual content look after having her bite.

“I say, your food is still delightful as ever,” the Queen complimented. “You provide quality service at your young age. So, where and when will this baking contest take place anyway? I’ll be sure to watch.”

“It’ll be at the Livingstone Magic Academy after-school,” Phoebe informed.

“Perfect. I’ll be inclined to watch what you’ll do against the other young, skilled baker,” the Queen finished before walking out of the door.

 Phoebe gave herself one good moment to muse about her strange encounter with the Queen until she was startled by the sudden arrival of a pale white man donned in a black cassock. It was a man she had recognized, a man in question who had no reflection casted behind him.

“Uh…what can I do for you today…Reverend Peterson?” Phoebe said in a concerning tone.

“Forgive my insolence, for I have strayed away from the path of God in the past,” Rev. Peterson spoke in the most unnerving tone, so much so that Phoebe herself couldn’t make eye contact at the clergyman as her attention is focused on his reflection, or rather a lack of one. “It would be a shame if you ended up the same way. You see, I stopped by your family bakery because I would like for you to make an offering for my precious Retceps, if you would be so kind.”

“By Retceps, you mean you want buy one of our baked goods for yourself, right?” Phoebe asked. “We’ve gone over this before.”

“Oh no, Retceps is certainly real. He is as real as I am, and as real as you are too, darling Phoebe.”

“So, are you here to buy something or not?”

“I apologize. I’ve changed my mind since it appears that I have disturbed you so. I would talk with you longer, but I should be elsewhere to help spread the word of God. Would you at least be willing to show at my local church this Sunday? I’m sure the other members of my clergy would like to meet you.”

“I can’t…I have big plans that day,” Phoebe responded, articulating a convincing enough lie.

“I understand. We’ll meet again another time,” Rev. Peterson finished before walking out of the establishment and closing the door behind him.

After Phoebe wrapped up her early morning shift, she retreated to her room to converse with Tarok again from her bathroom mirror. Tarok appeared in front of the mirror with a ball of red yarn.

“I can already tell how your time went,” said Tarok. “Her majesty the Queen visited your family bakery just to have the mandatory first bite, which had little with any royal priorities such as checking for food poisoning, and then that creepy Reverend showed up to talk with you about his faith and about his former reflection.”

“Yeah,” Phoebe affirmed, “and what’s creepier about him is that whenever the Queen is my first customer, he’s always the second person for me to serve. It’s like the two are connected somehow.”

“What the Queen’s connections are with him is beyond me,” Tarok replied. “I’m more intimated by that monarch’s reflection, Enilpicsid. Her reflection is a dragon, Phoebe!”

“Well, I’ve been getting used to her visits by now. I’m still freaked out by the Reverend…”

“You’re right, I shouldn’t neglect him. He is a vampire after all. So, are you going to tell me how you’re going to handle this whole cooking contest?”

Phoebe gave no response.

“Oh, is it a surprise?” Tarok inquired. “Don’t tell me that you do not already have something planned. How do you expect to win against Valerie if you don’t have a plan?”

“Come on, Tarok,” Phoebe said in a reassuring tone. “It’s like not my family’s business is at stake. I’ll leave the contest with my hands held high if Wilhelm ends up liking Valerie’s dish more.”

“Whatever it is that you’ll make for Wilhelm, I’m sure he’ll be impressed, and I’m saying this as your reflection who’s always on your side. I’m concerned about Valerie though, since she’s more magically skilled.”

“I’ll be fine. I don’t need magic to impress Wilhelm, but I do need it to get a glimpse of the world outside.”

Phoebe’s last sentence made Tarok stand up from bewilderment, to which he then said, “Phoebe, what if I told you that Reverend became a vampire because he abused the law of magic between both worlds? You weren’t there when he lost his reflection, and so neither was I. Do you know the old saying curiosity killed the cat? Don’t take my word for it just because I’m a cat, though.”

“Was Reverend Peterson’s reflection a cat?”

“Well, I never said that. Now go and focus on that contest already. Don’t worry about him, okay? As long as you stay on the right path, you won’t be like him. I have more important matters to attend to.”

“You’re the one who shouldn’t be worrying. I have important matters too anyway, so thanks for keeping my mind focused on school and my rival competition. I don’t have any more time to waste talking to you, so I’ll see you later.”

Phoebe’s reflection then disappeared from the glass and returned from behind her as she rushed past her bathroom mirror to grab her backpack. She stumbled downstairs and back inside the kitchen. She ran out the door of her bakery along with her bike, not before telling her parents that she’s heading off for her school.

My day of magic school went by like normal, but the rumors of Valerie and I duking it out to see whose family bakery was the best became widespread. I wasn’t able to find Wilhelm at all during school and I’ve wanted to talk with him before the contest. I came to the conclusion that he must go to a different magic school.

I had an hour after school before the competition between my family business and Valerie’s would start. I used that time to hurry over to my usual baking supplies store and then come back to my campus with fifteen minutes to spare and with the utensil I needed to make the dish that I’ve had in mind, and of course, the ingredients I needed to make it. Valerie and I had both set up our own booths for Wilhelm and once the challenge started, the campus was crowded with students and their respective reflections, just like as if there was a brawl going on. Wilhelm showed up as he promised he would. I got the chance to look at him and he exchanged a reassuring smile. Even when my eyes were focused on baking my dish for him, his expression was unchanged.

As Tarok has already suggested, I’m still a mere beginner when it comes to crafting and conjuring magic spells. I’m under-leveled in comparison to Valerie. While she’s added flair to her baking, I’ve been focusing on the sole aspect of the contest. It didn’t matter to me that she attracted the largest crowd by putting on a show. Wilhelm is the only one who’s to judge on who makes the better sweets in this challenge. Besides, despite magic being a high priority in Mirrim, most jobs require people to learn a certain skill that they wish to attain by natural means, because the best kind of service is the authentic kind, and making good food is one of those skills that can’t be augmented by magic. My main goal in life is to be a professional pastry chef, and my natural baking skills are the bulk of my talents. The Connellys, of course, combine their baking skills with their level of magic proficiency, a key factor in which makes our respective family businesses dissimilar.

One of the benefits of magic is finishing a task in lesser time than without it. This was how Valerie, of course, was first to complete her dish. She had a plate of colorful macarons laid out for Wilhelm, waiting for him to taste. He’s a rather patient guy, as he was waiting until I was done with my dish to judge our food, and so I eventually got mine done without much worry or pressure. I made him a staple dessert from his culture – Bibingkang Malagkit.

“Are you feeling nervous, Phoebe?” Valerie taunted. “I don’t know what it is that you’ve just made, but I have a feeling Wilhelm is going to be most pleased with my dish.”

Being more intrigued by Valerie’s dish, her booth was the first that Wilhelm had stepped up to. The moment of truth came as Wilhelm took a bite of one of the macarons.

“I’m impressed, Valerie,” Wilhelm remarked. “These are full of flavor. Seeing your magical display, I don’t have to ask about the secret to your baking.”

“Thank you very much for the compliment,” Valerie responded. “I suppose you won’t find Phoebe’s creation better.”

“I haven’t seen what she’s made yet,” Wilhelm replied, “but she must feeling just as confident that I’ll enjoy it.”

Wilhelm turned around to walk over to Phoebe’s booth and that was when he looked at her dish with curiosity.

“Oh, and what’s this that you’ve made?” Wilhelm asked.

“It’s Bibingkang Malagkit, a sweet caramel coated rice cake baked with banana leaves,” Phoebe responded. “…I thought you’d already know what it was.”

“Actually I do,” Wilhelm replied. “I just didn’t recognize it at first. I can’t recall the last time I’ve eaten one of these. It must’ve been a long time. Anyways, I’ll just see how it tastes now…”

 Phoebe watched as Wilhelm took a bite of her dish. For a brief moment, she saw single tears running down his eyes after he finished chewing. That sad expression quickly turned to a look of amazement.

“This is going to hard decision for me to make. This tastes absolutely remarkable, Phoebe,” Wilhelm commented. “Is there a secret to your baking that you could share with me?”

“I don’t think so,” Phoebe responded. “I’ve stuck with a recipe that I’ve learned.”

“Well, I have to come to a decision, and I think I’ve settled on a winner,”

“So, does this mean…?” Phoebe was asking.

“Phoebe…between you and Valerie, I think your baking is the best, so I declare you the winner.”

“I do not concede!” Valerie uttered from her booth, drawing attention from the crowd that migrated to Phoebe’s side. “How should I know that you’re not just being nice and that the dessert she made truly is better?”

“Because I tasted it, and you might agree with me too if you tasted it yourself,” Wilhelm responded.

“He liked your macarons too, so why should you act like such a sore loser, Valerie?” Phoebe asked.

“There’s more to being a professional baker than just making delicious food,” Valerie objected as she now stepped out of her own booth to come over to Phoebe’s. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too, not without Mirrim’s greatest resource.” She then grabbed the leftovers of the Bibingkang Malagkit and crushed it under her palm. “I’ll give your buddy-buddy a taste of what I feel about your baking, since he loves it so very much…” She then proceeds to throw the rice cake, aimed directly at Wilhelm’s face. He catches it with his right hand without alarm.

“Now, now, I don’t want to have to be the one who has to break things up between you two,” said Wilhelm. “Phoebe does have a point. I like both of your sweets. I had to make a choice between the two and I declared that I personally enjoyed Phoebe’s dessert more, fair and square. So why don’t you put aside your differences with Phoebe and accept your loss, Valerie?”

“We’ve been rivals for a while,” Valerie snarled. “Our families’ business is not your business, so you wouldn’t understand.”

“Look, Valerie,” said Phoebe, “if we could, we can forget that we made this bet and we can continue our paths without having to be at each other’s throats. I may not be as good as you are with magic, I did put in as much hard work as you have.”

“Fine then…I’ll accept my loss,” Valerie declared. “You just remember that there still can be only of us at the very top.”

The crowd of onlookers each viewed the uproar between Wilhelm and the two bakers with awkwardness. The situation was similar within the other side of the world known as Riooir, where the gathering of reflections viewed the competition as an inverted shadow display.

“Way to go, Phoebe!” Tarok cheered. “You sure outmatched that spoiled brat and her lousy Doberman!”

Namrebod gave a single, menacing growl in response to Phoebe’s victory and towards her respective reflection. Tarok watched as Wilhelm’s reflection, Neris, walked past the crowd and left his sight. Looking around his surroundings, Tarok saw a black she-chat ledged above a building, gesturing for him to meet with her. As Tarok could tell, the reflection was free-roaming with her other being outside her interface range.

It’s her. Tarok thought. What does she want and why does she want me to be alone with her?

Back in Mirrim, the sun was close to setting and the crowd had gone as Phoebe and Valerie both meet up with Wilhelm again.

“Hey Wilhelm,” Phoebe called out. “Before I could say thanks, there was something I wanted to ask you…”

“Ooh…”  Valerie teased, “It looks like Phoebe wants her little boyfriend to walk back to the bakery with him.”

“Is that true, Phoebe?” Wilhelm asked.

“It’s not in a way that Valerie thinks…” Phoebe spoke in a shy tone of voice. “It’s that I can tend to get flustered when talking to boys my age. Um…you know, we don’t have to walk since I just remembered that I have a ride and-”

“Well, I don’t have a ride home,” Valerie interrupted, “which is why I’d like for Wilhelm to walk me back to my family’s bakery. What do you say to that, Wilhelm?”

“Your bakery is only a thirty minute walk away, Valerie,” Phoebe pointed out with a stern tone, “and you can always use your magic to take you there faster…”

“If I can make a compromise,” Wilhelm chimed in, “I can walk Valerie back to her place while I’ll be visiting Phoebe’s afterwards.”

“Yes! I was going to ask if you could come to my bakery later,” Phoebe, still feeling flustered. “After choosing my family’s baking over Valerie’s, I’m sure my parents would like to get to know you.”

“I have some errands to run after I take Valerie, so I’ll see you in about three hours from now,” Wilhelm finished.

“Okay, then I’ll be seeing you at eight o’clock.”

 Phoebe got on her bike and rode out of the school campus, leaving Wilhelm and Valerie alone, with their reflections standing tall against the modest glow of the setting sun.

“Alright Wilhelm, tell me the truth,” Valerie spoke. “Did you like my food better or not?”

“Why are you still upset about losing earlier?” Wilhelm asked.

“It’s not about the contest this time,” Valerie replied. “I know there’s a reason why you preferred Phoebe’s dish more, and I just needed to know.”

“Well…I don’t feel comfortable saying this, but Phoebe won me over because her dish reminded me of something…something that I used to have,” Wilhelm explained. “She gave me this feeling that I never thought I knew she saw in me…”

“So, you made her win because she toyed with your emotions somehow- no wait, it is because you were being too nice to her, wasn’t that it?”

“Listen!” Wilhelm snarled. “I never asked to be caught in the crossfire between you and Phoebe like this. This contest thing was part of a setup that I was requested to initiate.”

“Requested by whom…and why?”

“You know what, forget what I said. Let’s shake on it and I won’t bring up Phoebe or the contest in front of you again, then I’ll continue walking you home.”

As Wilhelm continued to talk with Valerie, he inched closer to her, along with his reflection edging closer to Namrebod. As Valerie saw Wilhelm’s body stooping towards her, she saw a piece of paper hanging from his backpack and snatched it.

“Well, if you think it’s fair to disregard the hard work I’ve had to create for you, only for you tell me that the whole bet I’ve made with the Ashfields never mattered, then I suppose it’s fair if I take something from you without asking,” Valerie said, wavering the piece of paper in front of Wilhelm’s face.

“Hey, you’re not supposed to see that!” Wilhelm exclaimed.

“Then what was it doing hanging loose inside your backpack?” Valerie inquired.

“Forget about it-“

“If you have an excuse, then tell me what is,” Valerie interrupted. “I know you’re keeping something from me.”

“I could tell you, but…you see, I have a meeting to attend to after I took you back to your family-owned bakery,” Wilhelm was saying. “It turns out that I’m running late already!”

 As he finished, he faced the opposite direction and made a run for it from the pathway, leaving Valerie behind with her reflection, who was shuddering before responding to his reflection with a series of growls and barks.

“Calm down, Namrebod,” Valerie muttered. “We both know now that he doesn’t seem to be trustworthy. I don’t know what he’s hiding, but now I’ve gotten a clue from him…”

Valerie took a good look at the piece of paper she took from the boy and it read “Universal Warp Spell” in large text, with instructions underneath.

“Before we solve this mystery though, how about we pay a surprise visit to Phoebe?” She asked towards her reflection before using her wand to cast a teleportation spell.

The perspective then changes to show a kingdom somewhere within Mirrim, its exterior revealing a clear, reflective, and glossy texture, before then showing part of the interior. Inside is a room that was covered in glass, much like the kingdom itself. The center of the room is where the Queen stood along with her reflection, Enilpicsid The one object in the room not made of glass was a silver steel door on the right-adjacent side from the Queen and it was opened up to reveal someone familiar to her.

“Did you return with one of the girls that I asked you to bring?” The Queen asked.

“Forgive me, I was about to, but one of them saw through my ruse somehow,” a male voice spoke.

“You saw me amongst the crowd, didn’t you?” The Queen continued. “I’ve done that as a reminder for the task I’ve assigned you with, Wilhelm.”

“That isn’t all the news that I bring, your Highness, I’ve scheduled another meeting with Phoebe later tonight,” Wilhelm informed, “so spare me if you please, because I have another shot at this.”

“I see. As soon as her back is turned, Miss Ashfield must be taken here,” the Queen ordered.

“Here’s the thing, your Highness, that girl isn’t too good with magic, so I can’t convince her to bring herself over to you-“

“You can use magic. Therefore you shouldn’t have any excuses for your incompetence. You’ll be the one who brings that Sweets Serendipity girl to my arms, and you’ll have to bring yourself back here with her.”

“Why would you even want her for your experiments? Like I said, she’s a novice in using magic spells.”

“I can just teach her how to use them. Do you have the paper containing the universal warp spell? That is the main spell that I require for her to learn.”

“Forgive me for this too. The other girl, Valerie, stole it from me while I was trying to let Neris take control of her reflection.”

“It got stolen!?” The Queen fumed, cracking part of the glass in front of her with her right fist out of anger. “I took you in under my wing ever since you were small, raised you to master complex spells and obey even the simplest of my demands, and now you’re telling me that you’ve let the most forbidden magic spell of the world, which is supposed to bring me closer to achieving my life’s goal, fell into the wrong hands?”

“And I take full responsibility. Don’t forget that I’m part of your grand design too and I can take over if I could.”

“Yes, I need Neris to separate my targets from their reflections. In case your brain has been too far removed from your head, let me remind you that I am your monarch, so don’t ever think about trying use your reflection to cross me. Since you have time to spare, you go back and find that Connelly girl and take back what she stole from us!”

“I understand. I’ll send myself off and I’ll come back once I’ve retrieved the spell.”

The perspective changes to that of Phoebe’s after Wilhelm makes his exit from the Queen’s kingdom. Phoebe stops her bike as she touches down on the sidewalk of her family bakery.

“I don’t know if I told you this already, I just wanted to say that I’m proud of you,” said Tarok. “I’d be fine celebrating with your parents as long as their reflections aren’t involved.”

“My parents texted me after they closed up shop that they’ll be gone for a bit,” said Phoebe as she took out her shop key and inserted one of them into the keyhole to unlock the door. “So I’ll have to wait until I can lay the good news on them…”

Phoebe stopped as she saw the inside of the Sweets Serendipity bakery, now trashed. Chairs and tables were knocked down, food scraps and liquid were spilled across the floor, the glass on the windows were shattered and cracked with some open spaces along with the sweets display glass, the light sources above were damaged, and standing right beside the countertop was none other than her rival, Valerie. As the sun rested down emitting an afterglow, Phoebe’s reflection subsided from behind before she confronting Valerie.

“I know what you may be thinking,” Valerie spoke. “Trashing your family’s shop is so petty of me and I didn’t have to do it just to get your attention.”

“Well, now that you’ve just admitted that, what did you need to talk to me about?” Phoebe asked. “Are you still goading about losing that contest?”

“That bet we made was pointless, Wilhelm told me,” Valerie replied before then pulling her right arm behind her back, showing the piece of paper she’s holding. “You know what else? I retrieve this piece of paper containing a spell from him for something called a universal warp spell, hmmm…?”

“What would Wilhelm be doing with a spell like that, let alone with one of Mirrim’s forbidden spells, and what are you doing holding on to it?” Phoebe asked.

“I wanted to take this golden opportunity to make an offer with you, Phoebe. It’s dusk out and hence neither of our reflections is being casted, so it’s just you and me. No one else is around to hear this little dark secret that I found out from that boy. If what I am holding right now is a forbidden spell, then I’d like for you carry this burden in exchange for restoring this bakery back to its original state, if you agree to this offer. Besides, since you’re not skilled enough with magic to clean this all up, I’m the only person here who can help.”

“Whatever you say, just fix this mess that you’ve made so my parents don’t end up pinning it all on me. The spell belongs to Wilhelm, so I can just give it back to him anyway, even if it’s shifty of him to be carrying around something that’s forbidden.”

“Why don’t you take a look at the spell yourself? Certainly, there won’t be any harm in just taking a look.”

“I’ve had enough of your blackmailing. Just turn my family’s bakery back to the way it was before you showed up to trash it moments ago.”

On cue, Valerie took out her wand and said to Phoebe, “With pleasure.” With a calm mind and with a wave of her magic-conjuring instrument, the mess was now undone in ten seconds flat.

Over the course of Tarok’s time away from Phoebe as her reflection, he roamed around Riooir to find the black she-cat. He would find her sitting patiently beside a third-story windowsill. Tarok jumped up towards where she was to join in.

“Hello again, Yovne,” Tarok greeted, “feel free to tell me what you summoned me for.”

“Have you’ve been getting close with a reflection that goes by the name of Neris?” Yovne asked.

“I don’t think we’ve talked to each other,” Tarok replied, “but I’ve been recognizing her as Wilhelm’s reflection, since Phoebe has been recently becoming good friends with him.”

“You won’t like hearing what I have to say then,” Yovne replied. “You and your other, Phoebe, may be in grave danger because of Neris and Wilhelm. I’ve been hearing rumors spread all across the outskirts of this town, and it seems that Neris is a reflection that kills other reflections, her power source coming from her main influence in the outside world.” 

“So let me get this straight, what you’re trying to say is that Wilhelm’s reflection…”

“Due to her power, the humans in the Mirrim become vampires automatically,” Yovne finished.

Yovne’s share of information had now left Tarok feeling speechless and concerned. He then asked “Is all of that true?”

“I told that I’ve made an agreement with Samuel that I would be spending most of my life as a free-roaming entity of this world as a messenger. There’s a reason why you don’t find me attached to my other so often. I’ve been observing Neris’s actions based on those rumors, and I can confirm that she is a danger that should be avoided no matter what.”

“Okay, so I just try to convince Phoebe that she needs to stay away or distance herself from Wilhelm because his reflection kills other reflection. I should be on the same page, but it’s going to be hard for me to break this to Phoebe.”

“I don’t blame you. She’s your other after all.”

After the two stopped conversing for a brief moment, a yellow glow then started surrounding and emitting from Tarok’s body.

“Oh, looks like I have to return to being Phoebe’s reflection in a bit. We’ll talk more some other time, okay?” He finished.

Back in Mirrim, through Valerie’s spell, the once-dead-lights on the ceiling were now illuminating as Tarok and Namrebod have returned at Phoebe and Valerie’s side respectively.

“So, Phoebe…do you care to tell me what happened while I was away for the past several minutes?” Tarok asked.

“What happened, Valerie?” Namrebod inquired.

“It’s nothing much, I just had a little heart to heart with Phoebe,” said Valerie. “I should be on my way back to my own family bakery, yes?”

Without saying another word, Valerie walked over to the door with Namrebod trailing behind her and they both exited out of Sweets Serendipity.

“She’s lying,” Phoebe said towards Tarok. “She tried to tell me that Wilhelm is some shady character who never cared about our competition. Do you believe that?”

“Speaking of which, while you and Valerie were alone, I’ve acquired some upsetting information about his reflection, Neris, from a friend in Riooir.” Tarok replied. “By the way, what’s that piece of paper you’re holding?”

“Tell me about Wilhelm’s reflection first.” Phoebe demanded.

Before Tarok could answer, Phoebe could hear the door open up, signaling the return of her parents.

“We’re back, Phoebe,” said Mr. Ashfield. “I see you’ve been looking after the store while we were out.”

“How did that contest with Valerie go?” Mrs. Ashfield asked.

“I guess I could say that it didn’t turn out to be so eventful,” Phoebe said, although lying. “Wilhelm liked what Valerie and I baked for him and he had trouble deciding which was better, so he made us both winners.”

“Seems like you both patched things up a bit,” Mr. Ashfield assumed.

“I don’t think so. She’s still feeling bitter…”

Without warning, the spell that Valerie had cast was reversed, returning the bakery to its state from when it was vandalized. Phoebe’s parents would then give themselves a good long moment to examine the damage.

I should’ve known that Valerie wouldn’t tell me if the spell was permanent. Phoebe thought.

“What happened while we were out?” Mr. Ashfield asked. “Since you were here before we came back, you owe us an explanation.”

“Would you believe me if I said Valerie did this?” Phoebe asked.

“I know we’ve had our strives with the Connellys,” Mrs. Ashfield was saying, “but we don’t see any sign of them wrecking our bakery as sabotage, and therefore we can’t blame all of misfortunes on them. Magic can at least fix damage like this, so we won’t punish you.”

Afterwards, Mrs. Ashfield brought out her wand to reverse the damage caused by Valerie, returning the bakery to its undiminished state once more.

“I’m sorry that this happened,” said Phoebe. “I’ve had a lot to deal with for one day.”

“Why don’t we take ourselves upstairs and fix your hair for you?” Mrs. Ashfield suggested, referring to her unkempt-looking buns, in addition to the stray hairs that were showing. “Your father and I can tell by the look of it that you’ve just been under a lot of stress.”

Phoebe and her parents were now in her room, behind the bathroom mirror.  The two parents tended to Phoebe’s hair while seeing her reflection, Tarok, bare an angry pout as Mrs. Ashfield’s reflection, Reesrevo, held a firm grip on him while Mr. Ashfield’s reflection, Ffirehs, picked at the top of the cat’s head for dirt and fleas.

“For times like these, it’s important that you keep up with your magic studies,” Mrs. Ashfield informed.

“We’re not saying that you should already be a professional spellcaster,” Mr. Ashfield adds. “You are fifteen, but you’re going to be an adult soon.”

“I know,” Phoebe whined. “It’s just…that I care more about being a professional pastry chef more than being an accomplished mage. I also want to be able to take over this bakery someday and then I don’t have to deal with the Conellys and them trying to tarnish our family business again.”

“Well, we could all use a break from them for a while,” Mr. Ashfield replied, “which is why we managed to arrange a week’s vacation from Sweets Serendipity. It should also prevent any other calamities for the time being since that’ll mean that the shop will be closed until then.”

“So what are you both going to do while the bakery is closed for the week?” Phoebe asked.

“We’re going on a business trip,” Mr. Ashfield answered, “sharing our delicacies abroad.”

“For now, we trust you to be responsible and keep watch of this bakery,” said Mrs. Ashfield. “Make sure you don’t let anyone inside unless they’re important.”

Phoebe, upon realizing that her chances of Wilhelm visiting would be shot down, stopped herself when she was about to say something in response.

“We also entrust your reflection not to influence you to cause any trouble while we’re out travelling.” She continued.

“Hey!” Tarok chimed in. “What makes you think that I won’t be a good kitty for Phoebe?”

“Don’t worry ‘bout a thing, you can count on me,” Phoebe affirmed.

“Okay, sweetheart,” said Mrs. Ashfield. “Just in case someone enters the shop with magic uninvited, we’ll be turning on security before we leave.”

“We’ll be in a week. We love you,” Mr. Ashfield finished as he and his wife gave their daughter a hug and a kiss on the forehead before exiting her room. An hour passes as it was almost time for Wilhelm to visit Sweets Serendipity. Once again, Phoebe was in front of the mirror with Tarok.

“You know, you don’t have to feel upset about breaking your plans with Wilhelm.” Tarok said.

“But we made a promise that we would hang out later tonight,” Phoebe whined, “and I have to return something to him.”

“Even if he does show, I wouldn’t bring him in if I were you.” Tarok replied. “Perhaps we can do this another day…while keeping our distance, just to be safe.”

“Since when did you turn into my parents?” Phoebe jested.

Before the two could continue their conversation, Phoebe heard a noise from outside, further revealing Wilhelm’s arrival once as she leaned out her bedroom window.

“Well, I planned for today to spend time with Wilhelm, so I’m going to do it today,” Phoebe said towards her reflection, now converted to being her shadow. “Hold on, Wihelm!” She called out. “Don’t transport yourself inside the bakery. I’ll help you climb into my room! I’ll explain afterwards!”

Phoebe then brings out her wand to conjure a rope spell. Connected to her wand now was a long, coral-colored wraith-like string. She dropped the rope in front of her window and Wilhelm, prompting for him to climb up. Once as Wilhelm entered the bedroom with his reflection, Tarok stood back and yowled angrily at him.

“My parents enabled security inside the bakery,” Phoebe said to Wilhelm. “They’re out on a business trip, so I’m looking after this place by myself and I wasn’t allowed to let anyone in that they don’t consider trustworthy.”

“You trust me, don’t you?” Wilhelm questioned.

“Of course I do,” Phoebe replied and held out a piece of paper in front of him. “By the way, Valerie caused trouble with my family’s bakery again and gave me this. She told me it belonged to you and it contained a…forbidden spell…”

Wilhelm snatched the piece of paper and replied, “Oh, that’s right. This doesn’t seem forbidden to me, though…”

“What do you mean?” Phoebe asked.

This is just what I needed! Wilhelm thought. Now I have to bring Phoebe over to the Queen and see what she’ll have to say on whether or not she can keep her reflection. He then said aloud to Phoebe, “What I mean is that I believe all those things that people have been saying about this being a forbidden spell could be nothing more than a rumor.”

“Yeah, and you may be right. You see, I took on the opportunity to have you meet me here because…you know…since I trust you, I’d like for you to teach me intermediate-level spells. I’m only fluent with the basics so far.”

“I’d be happy to. It shouldn’t be too hard to do these spells once you get used to the instructions, so it should be easier than you think. Perhaps we could start with a teleportation spell? I was thinking that you could conjure it to-“

“How about we try this universal warp spell that you’ve been holding on to?” Phoebe interrupted. “I’ve always wanted to see the universe outside my own.”

Wilhelm reacted with stunned silence for a moment until saying to her, I’m sorry, but I’ve changed my mind. Just give the paper back to me and we can continue on go over certain other spells…”

“Why, is it because you’re hiding something?” Phoebe inquired. “Or is it that this spell is hiding something from me and from everyone else?”

“Phoebe, if I could stop you right now, you must not activate that spell!” Tarok warned.

Phoebe ignored the words of her own reflection as he walked back over to her bathroom mirror, locking the door from behind, and preventing Wilhelm from trying to enter. She held the paper in her containing the spell and a few simple-looking instructions. She held out her wand on her left hand and pressed her right hand on the glass of the mirror, preparing to recite the spell.

“Phoebe! Phoebe!” Both Tarok and Wilhelm exclaimed.

“Mirror, mirror,” Phoebe recited, “I summon my body, my mind, my heart, and my soul…to Riooir…”

After reciting the spell, Phoebe’s body glowed an immensely bright yellow. She would then see her own right band move through the glass along with the rest of her body. As she the saw herself falling through the glass from her surroundings, Tarok was out of her sight, and her vision blurred for an instance until it cleared up to reveal that she was now floating about in a black void. She saw Tarok again, but also an entity that was completely unfamiliar to her. The entity, in question, appeared to have an all-around symmetric physique. It had an hourglass-shaped build, the bottom part of its body was mostly black with a circle in the center of its abdomen of varying colors with each layer: white, then black, then blue, then red, then yellow, and then transparent (the smallest layer). Its arms were X and looked to be crossed, showing no hands. Lastly, its face had a similar appearance to that of a scarecrow, its eyes pitch-black and its expression painted with a rather menacing grin. In comparison to Tarok and Phoebe, its body was massive in size.

Tarok saw as the entity was about to unfold its arms and use its power to split its body and as well as the universe that is representing his connection with Phoebe in half, prompting for Tarok to act in his plea to spare Phoebe’s life and his own. Struggling, Tarok drifted himself closer to Phoebe, moving like he was underwater, and grabbed a hold of Phoebe’s left hand before using most of his force as he could to push Phoebe to where he positioned. Phoebe could tell by the look on Tarok’s face that he was mad at her, while also concerned and distressed.

With little time to process what was going on, the universe that Phoebe and Tarok appeared in had vanished, along with the powerful and intimidating being. When the two regained vision, they noticed something different from their surroundings in an instant. Phoebe now saw herself in the world that was obscured from her own while Tarok awoke behind Phoebe’s bathroom mirror.

“Tarok…” Phoebe spoke. “Where are you, where am I, and what just happened?”

“You see what happens when you let your curiosity get the better of you?” Tarok responded. “You just got your wish. You’re now in Riooir, which means that I’m now in Mirrim.”

“Okay, so now that I realize how big of a mistake this was and that it’s my fault for not listening to you, how do we warp back to our own worlds?” Phoebe asked.

“We can’t,” Tarok replied in a blunt tone. “What you’ve just witnessed was the connection between your world and my mine, and that devilish creature is none other than the omnipotent enforcer of those connections between the people of Mirrim and their reflections, Imagami. I couldn’t afford for you to become a vampire for enacting that forbidden spell, so I made an internal deal with the Imagami that we could change our places.”

“Alright then, so I can just reenact the spell again and-“

“Yeah, except that you’ve forgotten it now. That’s part of the deal that I had to make.”

“So does that mean we’re going to be stuck in the opposite worlds forever!?” Phoebe exclaimed in a panicked tone. “My parents are going to be worried sick about me!”

“Calm down,” Tarok continued. “I never said that there may never be a possible solution to our problem. With your parents being away for a week, I should have the time to stakeout Wilhelm. Since he has the spell, he should have some of the answers.”

“Speaking of him, I should ask why you’ve been acting weird around him recently. Besides, I last had the paper containing the spell, so it should be around where you are somewhere.”

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to break this to you, Phoebe, but that boy can’t be trusted and now that you’re in the reflections realm, you may be in more danger.”

“What do you know about him?”

“I’ve heard from a friend of mine back in Riooir that his reflection, Neris, has been known for killing other reflections, and making the folks of Mirrim into vampires in the process. I don’t know why he has that power or what he intends to do with it. All I know is that we need to distance ourselves from him. However, since we’re stuck in this situation, now we have to investigate him.”

“I’ll believe you since you seem to be telling the truth. Can you find that paper with the spell now, please?”

“Alright, I’ll check.”

Tarok dropped down from the bathroom counter to look around. He saw that the bathroom door had been flung open despite being locked from the impact of the spell. He jumped back up to lay the bad news to Phoebe.

“It’s gone. It seems as though Wilhelm snatched it back and escaped with it.”

“Okay, so now that we understand this whole situation that we’re in, what do we have to do now?”

“Your parents can’t know that you’ve conjured a forbidden spell and transported yourself to the world outside. We’ll be passing off as a couple different folk so as to not raise suspicions. Of course, I can’t let anyone in Mirrim now that I’m a cat with a human for a reflection, so I’ll use the magic spells I’ve memorized from your studies to go incognito, and you’ll have to change up your look since I’ll need you to do the same.”

“The best you could do in concealing your true identity is with a shapeshifting spell.”

Seeing that Phoebe’s wand was left behind on the counter, Tarok picked it up with his mouth and then said, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.” With a wave of the wand, and with a few recitations, Tarok now took on the appearance of a clothed, adult human male with gray hair.

“See, not too shabby.”

“Yeah…there’s just one problem, though…” Phoebe said, referring to the visible gray cat tail behind the human Tarok’s back.

“What? I thought this was only a predicament with kitsunes, from the stories of I’ve heard of them. …Anyways, let’s go over our current plan in fixing our state of affairs. Since you’re now a civilian of Riooir, you now must go by Ebeohp while I go by Korat…or Kodiak to blend in. With Wilhelm being our one and only lead into our investigation so far in figuring out a solution for the spell, we’ll have to start by investigating him.”

Phoebe’s concerned frown then turned to a confident smile and she said to her reflection, “That sounds like the plan.”

“I’ll get us back to our own worlds. As long as I can be able to keep our secret, you can count on me.”

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27. Trial and Error

Here is my newest one-shot story, which I've submitted to the Scary Story Contest for the now-concluded 2021 Octerrorfest, which I've won. Originally, I wasn't going to have its release tied to any certain site events on SBC and it was going to be a murder-mystery story with historical fiction elements. Since I've realized that this would be a good fit as an original short story for Octerrorfest, I've added one more key element to this story that I was going to save for a separate one-shot: horror. 

The main task of writing this one-shot was to write a compelling murder-mystery, as well as a compelling horror, based on my perspective of how the latter form should be written. It's not that I hate horror as a genre. Every once in a while, I would add horror elements to any of my stories depending on my mood and I have been getting into the works of Junji Ito to signify my experience, even though it's minimal. What I'm trying to say is that it's just not a genre of story writing that I'm a fan of. I've witnessed a vast number of badly-written creepypastas in my time and as well as other pieces of media like the absolutely terrible Hello Neighbor that hindered some of my feelings towards horror. However, they haven't stopped me from having a grasp on how it can work.

For the historical setting, I got some mileage from the Salem witch trials from the late 1600s, so I chose that because of how much it interested me. It is a fictional account on the events where the main premise revolves, so I was going for a historically accurate approach. My approach to the horror aspects of this story is not to force it, create surprise and suspense when the plot demands it, and to not be afraid to go off the rails.

Compared to the other, previous one-shots I've published, this one is rather shorter in length, at less than 5k words in total. I was entering this for Octerrorfest's writing contest, so I've always made sure I wasn't putting too much weight into this.  With everything about the writing process behind this one-shot explained now, let's move right on to the story proper. 


“Audrey Chambers, prisoner 14, you have been pardoned,” spoke the voice of a clergyman. “We have vetoed your execution on the grounds of the incidences happening within Salem Village. There have been reports of disappearances and manslaughter, and since you’ve been imprisoned during these unfortunate events, we’ve come to the agreement that you aren’t responsible.”

Audrey, the woman in question sitting still in her iron cell, was hesitant to trust the clergy member. She replied in a cold tone, “Why should I believe anything you’re saying? Your people took everything away from me – my job, my home, my family…I’d rather continue rotting away in here.”

“Aye, it must feel hard on you for us to remove your husband and kids from you,” the man continued. “I ensure that they’re alive and well, but you are forbidden from seeing them. Alas, a witch is a witch, so it wouldn’t be right grant you complete freedom. It is the job for us Puritans to eradicate any form of witchcraft here in Salem Village.”

The prisoner grabbed the clergyman by the collar and exclaimed to him, “How do I know that this government that you associate yourself with isn’t keeping them in confinement!? They put us all on trial! Now tell me why I’m being freed, Minister Adams.”

Audrey still held on the minister, waiting for his answer. Adams waited until she let him go so that he could give out a formal response. “I wouldn’t say freed…I would say that you’ve been placed under supervision by the Puritans for a special job. We turned to you based on claims of you having a sixth sense. With a strong presence of evil being spread around Salem, we could use your spiritual connection for our investigation.”

“I will not accept an offer to be exploited by the likes of you.”

“Just let me finish. Should you succeed in apprehending the suspect and exposing them for their acts of witchcraft, your innocence will be proven and thus, you’ll be granted permission to reunite with your family. If you commit devil worship by any means while on the job, then an execution will be made in order for you.”

Audrey went silent, thinking hard on the offer being made to her. She finally said to the minister, “In behalf of the government, I’d refuse. However, if you speak the truth, then I shall assist in finding this culprit.”

“I understand if you don’t see this as means of me having a change of heart. Us Puritans must abide to God’s will and properly punish the heathens that practice such sinful acts. To ensure that you will be restrained from the use of black magic…” Adams then showed in front of Audrey two pairs of shackles. He enclosed them around her wrists and ankles and linked each ends together to lock them. “…You are to be kept in restraints.”

Audrey continued to hang her head down as the minister showed her out of her cell. At that point, she refused to utter another word to him.

“Why don’t you step outside now?” Adams suggested. “I’m sure you begin to feel better being able to see the outside since your arrest.”

Audrey obliged and left the containment area, allowing for herself to view the outside of Salem Village once again. However, she expected nothing more than the worst. From what she had observed, the weather appeared to be hazy. The atmosphere was bleak and filled with panic. More dauntingly so, there was an overriding smell of death in the air. Despite this unsettling mood, Audrey saw a fair amount of the townspeople strolling by either on foot or in wagons for their essential needs. Some of the Salem residents that took notice of Audrey’s release from her confinement exchanged disparaging looks towards her.

The date is October 5th, 1692, Audrey narrates. At this time, Salem’s witch hunts are still in full-swing, as is the mass hysteria surrounding its supernatural occurrences by the Puritans, the religious reform that maintains law and order of this town. I am Audrey Chambers, a 31-year old wife, mother, and former miller who has been wrongly accused of witchcraft alongside my husband and kids by association. I am the 78th civilian to ever be put on trial for perceived witchcraft, the 9th to be declared guilty…and the first to be released. In the past several months, I would experience these peculiar dreams at night that were like visions of my own future, and they mostly involved bloodshed. I expressed these recollections as a form of fortunetelling, and the Puritans later took notice and saw it as a form of witchcraft, which was how and why I got tried.

One of the female residents of the colonial village who recognized the woman in shackles uttered, “It’s that witch!” before then coming nearer to threaten her with a cross by then saying, “Burn in hell, you

“An execution for this wench won’t be necessary for the time being,” Adams reassured, although still angering Audrey with his choice of words. “There’s a much more important cause that’s been happening that needs to be cleansed, if you understand.”

“I saw it with my own eyes…” the resident continued. “I saw it outside the millhouse. It had to be her.”

“I see...” Adams mused.

“Could I still at least prove my innocence?” Audrey asked the minister before turning to face the local. “What did you see at the scene of the crime?”

“A dead, impaled body in a wheat field,” the resident responded. “It hanged there like a scarecrow. I just can’t stop thinking about it. I’m going to have nightmares for a while.”

“I can assure that the witch, Ms. Chambers, wouldn’t have been able to commit such a horrific crime as she was still imprisoned during the event.” said Adams. “Although, since she’s been declared as a witch, we can’t rule her out as a probable suspect. In other words, she’s guilty until she manages to prove herself innocent. Don’t worry about her now. The law is taking good care of her.”

“This was not the only causality that’s been reported since this morning,” the resident added. “Someone’s wife was murdered as well.”

The Puritans have been evaluating the town for any activity in witchcraft, but now we have a case in our hands epitomizing a string of murders. Before we explore the scenes where the crimes took place, we’d like for you to refer to us to this other witness.”

In a passing moment, Audrey and the accompanying minister were inside the house of a man bearing two children, a son and a daughter. They were identified as the Masons. The Masons were seated on a coach while Adams and Audrey looked at them straight while seated on a pair of wooden chairs.

“Minister Adams, it’s a surprise and as well as a pleasure to have you here,” said the widow. “Do you have to keep that witch company here? I don’t approve of having her in my home. She’s bad luck you know…”

“It’s for temporary business, Lawrence,” Adams reassured. “Describe to us what happened when your wife, Dinah, was murdered.”

“I work the millhouse fifty hours a week and when I’m not on the job, I spend the rest of my time as a devote Puritan or as a husband, so I have an alibi,” Lawrence explained. “I was in the altar when I heard a devilish scream. “No God will help” – that’s what I heard before I left the scene to see my wife dismembered and dead on the dirty ground. So I do believe witchcraft is involved in these affairs.”

“I’m sorry about your loss, Lawrence,” Audrey spoke in an empathetic tone.

“I guess some witches do have some sense of morality and humanity in them,” Lawrence remarked.

“We’ve worked at the millhouse together,” Audrey replied. “We were in really good terms, so you should give us permission to examine the millhouse for leads on where one other crime took place.”

“Yes, I’ve heard from the townsfolk about that incident. The victim was an innocent miller. Because of the trauma I’ve been dealing with, I’m better off leaving that place alone. I would give Minister Adams permission to look. For you, Audrey, I would forbid.”

“No need to be so boorish,” Adams remarked. “To solve this mystery that’s rooted in supernatural activity, we need someone with connections to witchcraft to find out the true culprit.”

“We miss mommy, daddy,” Lawrence’s son spoke.

“Where is mommy? Is she coming back?” The daughter asked.

“I have a couple of kids who are too young to understand what’s been happening and every so often they ask me about Dinah,” said Lawrence. “Giles and Nancy are also too young to handle the answer, so you must understand that I have to stay here awhile for their sake. Whoever is responsible deserves the fucking worst.”

“Yes, that is understood,” Adams replied. “It was nice having this talk with you, Lawrence Mason. We will be visiting the millhouse and its field shortly with executioner Frank to inspect and remove the body. I’ll be sure to report back to you any information concerning your wife’s murder. If any more criminal activity pops up, you know who to call on.”

“Thanks, I appreciate your company, Minister Adams,” Lawrence finished.

Upon leaving the Masons residence, Audrey, Adams, and Frank made their way towards the area of interest. As described, they saw a corpse positioned like a cross on the wheat field. Its rotting flesh was being devoured by crows and insects. The sight of the dead body especially filled Audrey’s mind with dread.

“Ms. Chambers, you’ve worked as a miller, so I suppose you recognize this victim,” said Adams.

“I can’t…it just makes me feel so sick to my stomach just looking at it,” Audrey spoke in a horrified tone.

“I can understand that feeling,” Frank uttered, “Men, women, children, elderly, I’ve seen corpses of all kinds and it’s all so hard for me to bear as well.”

“Yet you don’t feel remorse for executing the lives of innocent people in the name of God,” Audrey chided.

“Now let me explain something, you wench…” Frank provoked before the minister raised a hand to stop him due to the presence of a couple passing by, a man and a woman respectively in their typical miller attire.

“Are you two here for the millhouse?” Adams inquired towards the couple. “This is a murder scene, so it’s still off-limits.”

“We just came here to make sure if it’s still unsafe to work the mill,” said the male onlooker. “It’s been plagued by strange occurrences since the past week. Because of that, we’ve been out of work for a while and we’re barely getting by right now, so I hope this crisis is over soon enough.”

“What is she doing here?” The woman asked, referring to Audrey. “A witch has no business being here.”

“Actually, she does, Charlotte,” Adams responded. “We’ll have this place cleared of all evil activity as soon as possible, so as you can see, we got this situation under control.”

“If that’s the case, then why would a Puritan such as yourself have a witch on your side?” Charlotte questioned.

“She’s a part of our investigation and as well as to prove her innocence for witchcraft,” Adams replied. “As long as she’s been supervised, I guarantee there won’t be any funny business going about.”

“George!” Charlotte called out to her partner. “Say something about this travesty!”

“Well…” George spoke, “If the Puritans say it is necessary, it’s fine by me then that they have the premises lodged up, even if they have a convicted witch in their custody. If you’d please Minister Adams, we could use some financial assistance. Perhaps some compensation for the closure of the mill could be made in order.”

“Yes…a meeting can be arranged for that,” said Adams, “I’ll inform the clergy and Judge Pascoe about the situation between you and Charlotte, and I’ll see if we can come to an agreement. If not, the both of you may have to find another area of work.”

“We’ll hope for a miracle, then. Let’s go, Charlotte.”

The pair returns no more words as they left Audrey, Adams, and Frank to investigate the millhouse and the wheat field. Frank started by examining the corpse.

“Judging by this man’s clothes, this body appears to belong to a man named Charles Sawyer,” Hank declared.

“Are you sure of that?” Adams asked as he came over to look.

“I am an expert in body examination, and I’ve used that experience to learn and remember the names and backgrounds of all those who live in Salem Village.” Frank responded. “You know why I’ve been hired as executioner. I can guarantee that it’s him. If it’s not him, then it could be a foreigner who had an unlucky encounter.”

“The corpse smells of rotting blood and flesh and yet these clothes don’t seem to show serious damage, dear heavens.” Adams remarked. “This could be the work of witchcraft, or this has to do with the murderer’s motives.” He turned his head towards Audrey in the distance and asked her “What do you think, witch?”

“Minister Adams…” Audrey spoke in a grave tone. “Do you ever think that your society, the Puritans, have gone too far in making this town paranoid?”

“That has nothing to do with the question that I’ve asked you, witch,” Adams jeered.

“I am Audrey Chambers, remember that name!” She snapped.

The minister crept closer to the woman in shackles and pressed his right hand on her neck to put her in a chokehold, “I am Chauncey Adams. You’ll remember that name until the day you die. You live your life as a witch and you’ll die as one, do you fucking understand?” Before Audrey could retaliate, Adams let go of his grip on her and then said, “Just so you’d know, the main objective of the Puritans is to rid Salem Village of the source of paranoia that’s going against God’s wishes. It is by the grace of God that we denounce and remove all that we view as evil to ensure safety of this town, and as you may realize now, we’re dealing with activity that is unknown to the normal human being. You are still valuable for this case, so I require for you to take a look at the corpse.”

“I can’t, and I won’t!” Audrey protested.

“Look at the goddamn body or I’ll resort to brutal force, right here, right now!” Adams demanded.

“There’s one thing that I’ll tell you…” Audrey yielded. “That body could be a deception made by the culprit.”

Adams paused for a moment. He then responded, “Why do you say that?”

“You said there were also reports of people disappearance from Salem, right?” Audrey questioned. “This isn’t like any normal serial murder case that we’re dealing with.”

“Oh yeah, that’s another thing that needs to be addressed,” said Frank. “Children have been disappearing from town since the past week. It started with two missing cases and then it added up to twelve as of yesterday. Some of the residents believe that they’ve been disappearing to the haunted forest.”

“What does that tell us about the miller who got murdered, or the murder of Dinah Mason?” Adams asked. “We have some evidence, but now we need some leads.”

It was then that Audrey walked over to the wheat field while trying her best to avert her eyes from the corpse.

“So, you tell it to my face that you refuse to cooperate with us and now you’re helping,” Adams remarked. “What do you got to share with us?”

“I know these wheat and grain fields like if they were part of my home,” Audrey spoke. “It should be evident that the soil here has been tampered with. Apart from the corpse, there’s something peculiar about the dirt around it. There are some scrapings laid here that came from a different source.”

“And what is this source that you’re thinking that this oddity came from?” Adams asked.

“If there’s a report of children disappearing into the haunted forest…”Audrey was saying, “…It must mean that there is activity coming from that area by the suspect. Perhaps we should investigate it.”

Frank was quick to react to and reject the idea. “No, no, no, no, there’s not a chance we’re going there!” He objected. “You’ve heard the rumors about that place. Any unsuspecting Salem villager who sets foot there never comes back, dead or alive.”

“I was about to be sentenced to death before the Puritans decided to have myself attached to this case,” Audrey responded while holding the markings on her neck caused by the minister. “I may feel sick inside by seeing death of others, I don’t fear it nor do I fear the likes of you both. If this isn’t a job you or Minister Adams can’t handle, then I suggest I go and investigate without supervision.”

“How should we know that you won’t practice witchcraft behind our backs?” Frank asked.

“I’ve agreed to engage in this case to prove my innocence,” Audrey replied. “I’m determined to figure out the perpetrator even if it means facing death.”

“I say let her go, Frank,” Adams uttered. “Since there’s a high probability that she will end up dead in the forest even though she’s willing to take such a risk, then it’s her funeral. If she comes back alive, perhaps it means she is a witch, but that might also mean she is a born survivor.”

“Say what you will,” Audrey said to the minister, “I’ll wait for the day that I get to see you burn in hell.”

“I have God on my side.” Adams retorted.

“I may be chained, but I have my confidence to keep me alive,” Audrey asserted. “Now show me where the supposedly haunted forest lies.”

The day turned to dusk by the time that Audrey began trudging through the dreaded forest by herself. She searched for hours walking through the woodland with nothing but the tall surrounding trees that met her glance. Despite the lack of peculiar activity, she kept a close eye on herself, looking in all directions every so often. It wasn’t until she stumbled into an open area surrounded by the forest without vegetation within approximately 3,000 square feet from her distance. The area in question was in the shape of an isolated circle. What caught Audrey’s attention, however, was the sight of a stone slab in the center.

Audrey inched closer to the strange object. What was even stranger was the green glow it was emitting. It wasn’t like anything she had ever witnessed in Salem. After staring at the hunk of stone for two minutes, she heard footsteps and made for a quiet retreat from the spot. Observing from behind the husk of one of the adjoining trees, her surprise grew as she witness a group of twelve children, as described by Frank the executioner, walking over to the stone tablet. Each of them also had a green-colored glow emanating from their bodies. It was indicative to Audrey that the children were enchanted as their movements didn’t appear to be humanlike. She then saw the group of children speaking a chant that she couldn’t comprehend. The gleam from the stone tablet grew stronger and released a bright discharge before the mystical energy was now reduced to its original state. Before Audrey could try and approach the mysterious children, they began to leave the forest.

All alone now in the encircled area of the haunted forest, Audrey stepped closer to the stone tablet so she could touch it and see for herself what exactly this strange object is. Before she could place her hand on the stone, her eyes caught the ambush of an appearance so unfamiliar and yet so alarming. She was stalled by what appeared to be a sentient corpse with most of its skin and flesh removed from its body and revealing its skeleton layer. Most of the corpse’s remaining skin was hanging down from the face and jaws. Below, Audrey saw a noose tied around the neck.

“Hang…man….” The living corpse muttered. “Hangman….hangman….”

Audrey was in a complete state of shock. By instinct, she kicked her feet and made a bolt to the forest. She struggled to keep a quick pace due to the restraints tied to her arms and legs. Regardless, she kept her stamina high in order to keep herself further away from the undead entity. She breathed heavily and cursed as she ran from the danger ahead of her, which was now creeping closer and closer while looking from behind.

“Hangman, hangman, hangman, hangman!” The corpse’s movements became faster and its intonation grew louder the closer it got to Audrey.

Audrey continued to run for her life until she was stopped by another presence. More living corpses of different forms showed up to surround her, with the undead hunter grabbing a hold of her. Seeing herself in a dead end, Audrey couldn’t move no more. The corpse behind her removed the bundle of rope around its neck, loosened it, and prepared to tie it around Audrey’s neck, giving off a shriek, “HANGMAN!”  

With enough force in her, Audrey swung and kicked the corpse from behind before the snare could tighten her neck. She removed the rope and wrapped it back onto the neck of the corpse that pursued her. She tightened the noose to decapitate the sentient corpse, and disintegrated into dust as a result. With an army of living skeletons with rotting skin and flesh still having her cornered, she resorted to using her restrains in self-defense, aiming for the sweet spot that was indeed the neck of each respective body. She turned the rest of the living corpses into dust with her method. To keep herself safe from any more imminent harm, she hid behind a tree and breathed heavily to calm herself from

“What…was…all that…that I just saw?” Audrey groaned. “Where did those corpses come from? What is that stone, and for what reason where those missing children coming there for? Is this…what witchcraft really is?” Her body slid down from the bark of the tree, her legs spread across on the ground. She laid there motionless, unable to process everything that had transpired in front of her. “With so many unanswered questions, this is a mystery that demands to be solved. If the forest is the source of all these inhuman occurrences, I must continue looking here.”

Audrey rested behind the same tree for half an hour until she continued on her trail. She strolled around for about nine minutes until she was approached by another unknown presence, but one that was more humanlike in appearance. This startled her and she began to run once more until her path was blocked by another one of the living corpses. She turned around and saw as the other mysterious individual got closer to her and knocked her out.

When she awoke, she saw as she herself resting on a tree branch, facing the mysterious individual that had reproached her. She backed away from the unknown person with panic in her eyes and in her voice. The onlooker didn’t move, letting Audrey ease her own mind. The person in question had the physical appearance of a man. He wore nothing but loincloth, draped and covered around his private area. His hair was black and unkempt. He was underweight, with his abdomen being so thin that his skin exposed the bones of his ribs and as well as the bones in his backside.

“You should be safe right now,” the man spoke. “We’re in the tree tops where nothing harmful could reach us. By the way, I’m sorry about startling you.”

“Do you know what’s going on over here?” Audrey asked.

“I’ve been wondering the same thing and I think I have some answers to share.” The unknown man continued. “You may not believe me when I say this but…the village of Salem is in serious danger.”

“I can tell,” Audrey replied with her cuffed arms and legs huddled together. “I was pardoned from my execution after being declared guilty for witchcraft when the Puritans sought me out for these visions that I’ve been having of the future, to solve a string of murders that have been happening recently.”

“That’s why I’ve been trying to survive out here in this forest. In other words, I’ve escaped from Salem Village to here so I found solve this mystery on my own terms, and I did that by faking my own death.”

He faked his own murder? Audrey thought. Then that means… “Tell me more, please…”

“I smell a conspiracy going on between the Puritans. How else could they be spreading panic across the town and keep the truth about witchcraft to themselves?”

“If black magic does exist, then that means…” Audrey was saying.

“It means that there is indeed a witch somewhere in Salem hiding their true actions,” the man finished. “You’re on the hunt for the suspect, so I already know that it can’t be you. I don’t have an idea on the identity of the murderer, do you?”

“No...” Audrey said in a sorrowful tone. “Although…from my encounter with those living corpses, I saw a lead. They kept repeating the word ‘Hangman.’”

“From what I could gather, they are dead, but they were reanimated through means of witchcraft. All that jabber about a hangman could only mean that this was how they met their demise.”

“That means they were connected to those witch trials in Salem...”

“Those are my thoughts exactly. The murders may also be connected to that millhouse so we need to get a closer look at what’s going on there. It may be a risk now for us to return to Salem Village alive. Nonetheless, we can survive out here for a while and form an alliance in solving this crime once and for all. Once we do return to the town, we’ll need to have a plan set in motion. Although, the first thing I could do is replenish my strength. Unfortunately, it’s not easy finding food or drink in this forest, but we can always try.”

“Well, since we trust each other, let’s say our names. I’m Audrey Chambers.”

“…My name is Charles Sawyer.”

As the night dawned on the two outsiders, the perspective changed to show the inside of the millhouse in Salem Village during those same late hours. There stood two figures in black robes to signify themselves as Puritans. However, their faces were obscured by the darkness. The room itself was dusk except for a bright green light, exposing the naked body of the deceased Dinah, tied to a rusted metal chair with irons concealing her hands, feet, and abdomen.

“It’s a shame what we have to do with her.” The voice of a man spoke. “This body will be put to good use, however. Even if it rots away, I’ll store the energy for my own. When the time comes, all of Salem will have a new, tangible God that they’ll be forced to look up to.”

Suddenly, the door to the millhouse creaked open to unveil a pair of three individuals.

“Mommy, are you here?” The voice of a child spoke.

“What’s going on here?” The voice of a man also spoke. “Who’s working the mill?”

“Forgive me God, for I’m afraid I have to dispose of these intruders,” the cloaked man lamented in a remorseless tone. “You saw nothing.”

With a wave of his arms, the man in the black Puritan robe jerked his hands around. In that instant, the three victims screeched and grunted in pain as their bones were cracking and rearranging against their will and their bloodflows connecting to their throats collapsed and obstructed their breathing. The dismemberment of the three would end with each of them being disemboweled, their skins flaying and showing part of their skeletons, their eyes gouging out, and their blood splattering all across the room.

“At the very least, I have more dead life that I can use within my arsenal.” He turned away from the bloody, mangled corpses and turned to his cooperate. “Remove all traces of evidence, immediately.”

“Yes, my master.” The other Puritan spoke in an obedient tone.

Before the two unknown men closed the door, the glow of the moon radiating from the outside revealed the victims to be George and Lawrence’s two kids: Giles and Nancy. Later, the corpses were gone from the spot and the two crooked individuals resumed their work.

 “With this immense power, Salem shall perish…”

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28. Trinity Leaf Pegasus Episode 1: First Version

Considering that I'm starting over this project from scratch, it's logical that I would move this rough draft for the first episode of TLP to this thread, like with the rough draft for the first episode of OotC. Other than that, this is me making up for the lack of the premiere that I've promised since the past month and I'm now holding over for three months to date. I've published what would end up being the rough draft to TLP's first episode back in February 2015 and after falling back on this slump for six more years, it's indicative of just how TLP is my most difficult project to flesh out when I don't feel to proud of this finished product, and why Jjs has called it the Duke Nukem Forever of my spin-off/lit writing career. I still plan on getting the official premiere written out before the end of the year, and hopefully it's worth that 10 year wait. 


1. In This Life... (Before Chaos)


The Crystal Empire, one of the most superlative landforms in the post-modern universe of Equestria and evolved into something greater as of current. In a world, advanced into the revolution of technology, robotics, and such, the Crystal Empire has enhanced from said technology.


The treasures it holds are state of the art inventions and they are through the benefit of nanobot technology. Moreover, the most well-known and named artifact of the Crystal Empire was known as the “Coalition Blade.” With the blade made with pure crystal, the sword gives off a mechanical effect.


It is said that at least two or more bearers of the sword are assembled into an automated, robot alicorn body when the rapier gives off an incredibly desolate gleam. Ponies of the current times have used the weapon for defense of the kingdom, for all of Equestria. Its most notable power is to rid of chaos from anywhere and anything. The sword was specially used by Princess Cadance and Prince Shining Armor, two of the most notable swordponies, and the ponies to vanquish Discord’s chaos brought out by thieving individuals. Now it resides at a museum in the Crystal Empire, to showcase its history and the mysteries of its making that still exist and are still unsolved.


Six ponies that represent the Elements of Harmony stood in front of the sword, displayed and encased in its podium: Applejack, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, and Princess Twilight Sparkle.


“So, this is the sword?” Fluttershy asked quietly.


“The Coalition Blade, for that matter? This is the one,” says Twilight Sparkle. “Shining Armor and Princess Cadence called for us here to conceal this display with magic to for security since the magic surrounding it got cancelled out.”


Twilight edged away from her position, got close to the exhibit. She bowed her head below and started charging up her horn as she gazes upon the centerpiece, surrounding the podium with her magic; the kind of magic that would block anypony from trying to give the finely honed blade weapon the slightest touch. Her horn was glistening until the last bit of magic dissipated in front of the podium. The work was done. The alicorn princess momentarily stepped back.


In other words, she used a blocking spell to protect the Coalition Blade, pardon the verbosity.


“That’s it, huh?” Rainbow Dash stated. “While we’re still in the Crystal Empire, how about we come see the Wonderbolts performance that is being held real soon?”


Twilight turned to one of her friends and responded, “That’s not for another 5 hours. We’ll get there. Now I have to write to Celestia and Cadence that the Coalition Blade is under protection again.”


“I just can’t seem to wait though!” Rainbow Dash added. “If we’re lucky, we could watch upfront!”


“Besides,” Rarity was saying, trotting around the museum before taking a look at some displayed dress designs, “why not take a marvel at these divine pieces of art? Put aside the Coalition Blade, I don’t see know that’s fascinating or artistic.”


“Which reminds me, what does that sword do?” Rainbow Dash asked.


“Y’all can tell us anything, sugarcube,” said Applejack.


“There’s something that the silly old thing can do, and it’s a mystery I can probably solve!” Pinkie Pie uttered. “Maybe it can be used to shoot up rainbows in space! Or it’s used to rapidly dress birthday cakes! Or it can throw a party on its own! Maybe that doesn’t sound possible, but the sword must be done for something. Anyways, I think it might….”


As Pinkie Pie kept on rambling, Twilight brought out a book that she had carried along with to the museum.


Entitled, “The Extended Guide to the Coalition Blade and Its Relations,” she flips through pages and then begins to rephrase the very definition:


“It’s a sword contained with the power of nanobots and has the ability to form a giant shield of armor in its intended image of an alicorn when in possession by a group of three. Its power is used to sweep chaos in its range.”


“Um…so that means this sword is used for good?” Fluttershy asked. “And this isn’t a concern for Discord since he’s been reformed for a long while, right?”


“If ponies would attempt to steal something like this for something that’s used for good, could they really try to use it for evil?” Twilight mused. “Ugh, now I got that racking my brain. Speaking of Discord, we need to keep a sharper eye on him because of reports of others confiscating most of his chaos energy.


 “Don’t forget we still have to make sure he doesn’t do anything tricky ah-gain,” Applejack pointed out.

A couple hours have passed and the six ponies were prepared to leave the museum.


“Our work here is done,” said Twilight. “My magic ought to hold the Coalition Blade from heists….from whoever would actually steal for a sword like that.”


The last of the six ponies to step out was Pinkie Pie, who was still jabbering. “…Or perhaps it can give me a long flowing mane and summon a magical sea dragon! That would be a nice touch….”


It was now after sundown and the doors to the Crystal Empire’s museum were locked up and shut, with no one but the guards on duty. However, a strange figure, fully garmented in black, was seen in the shadows, revealed to have sneaked inside.


The pony in disguise silently sneaked across the displays of the museums until the shady fellow spotted the Coalition Blade, shielded by Twilight’s magic. The pony’s horn gleamed. With concentration, the invisible blockage around the display was being cancelled out by the intruder’s magic. Then, quietly, the intruder removed the case and confiscated the sword. The pony then placed it on saddleback and got ready to flee.


The thief found some emergency rope nearby. Aiming for the open ceiling window, the pony was making the escape and lunged back onto the museum’s grounds the moment the shady pony realized that the Coalition Blade was unexpectedly out of grip of the hooves.


There appeared to be another thief in amidst of the attempted heist. The other individual had the shape/form of a griffon. Said thief cautiously flew around the museum with the artifact and aimed for the same open window from the pony thief’s distance. The first thief laid a tap on the second one’s left shoulder before knocking it down. Momentarily, both thieves tackled at each other until their masks came undone, revealing a couple of familiar faces. (The two do not recognize each other however)


“What in Equestria brings you here?” The unicorn whispered callously.


“I’m taking the Coalition Blade for myself and you’re not beating me to it!” The griffon exclaimed.


As revealed, the two intruders were Trixie Lulamoon [the unicorn] and Gilda [the griffon] respectively.


“Keep it down before the guard ponies sound the alarm,” Trixie responded quietly.


“What would you want with the sword anyways!?” Gilda continued, being bombastic as usual. “Don’t everypony treat you like a joke!?”


Due to Gilda’s voice echoing around the museum, the guards off-screen took notice and sounded the alarms.


“How would you know that?” Trixie asked back, tugging at the Coalition Blade, maintaining a grip on it from the griffon. “I suppose everypony is not familiar with Trixie, the Great and Powerful, and so I made my current living here in the Crystal Empire! But now you’ve done it…”


Referring to the guards that were being lined up, one by one, they came running for the two burglars. Trixie and Gilda put their masks back on their faces and sprinted away to exit through the entrance doorway. Using her magic to quickly unlock it, she and Gilda were out of there and found a place to hide behind from the museum guards.


“You ruined this. Who are you, and what do YOU think you’re trying to do with the Coalition Blade?” Trixie asked.


“The name’s Gilda, you selfish hooligan!” She introduced.


“Feathered loudmouth…” Trixie muttered. “In case you didn’t listen, I am the Great and Powerful Trixie, don’t wear it out. Since I’m hanging on to the Coalition Blade, I must be going with this fine treasure…”


“Not a chance!” Gilda said once as she tried to snag the sword back.


Gilda and Trixie were tugging at it again until they both inadvertently tossed it into the open field. The guards took immediate notice and headed back to the museum with the recovered artifact.


“Forget you!” Gilda bellowed at the unicorn and started to hover before taking off. “Lucky for me, my intents for the sword are none of your business!”


“I would have learned some new and amazing tricks with that thing,” said Trixie. “Hopefully, we are never destined to meet again…”


And so Trixie trotted away from Gilda’s sight after generating a puff of smoke.






Good morning, my little pony. Or so she is….


Whatever the answer, you wouldn’t know.


In a coat of orange blossom, with green eyes, an auburn mane with cowlicks, before the pony styles it with a flick around her forehead and short spikes around her neck, she was known as a Pegasus.


A preadolescent Pegasus named Felea.


She already got herself readied and came down to the kitchen where her father was lounging. Unlike her said father, he is a crystal pony. Furthermore, he is a blacksmith. As shown, a series of crystals was assorted around his workspace.


“Good morning, dad!” Felea greeted.


“Good morning to you too, Felea,” her father, Copper Gears responded. “Since you probably haven’t heard the news, we better be cautious at our museum trip, since an attempted robbery happened two days ago.”


“Don’t be silly, since when will that turn up during our one occasion?” Felea questioned. “I will be careful though, cross my heart and hope my wings don’t clip!”


Someday, just someday, I’ll be able to have a strong set of wings. Felea thought. To go into more detail, being able to fly, or more so become a star flier, is the one thought that circles around the pony’s mind.


For reasons of her anatomy, she cannot fly. Could be why she’s so focused on getting a cutie mark pertaining to that. A pony can dream.


“Just go to your school as usual, it will be our treat,” said Copper Gears.


“Alright, love you dad!” Felea concludes and left home for her bus stop.


As soon as school was over, Felea and Copper Gears eventually appeared at the museum, free of crime. Felea gazed upon the wonders of collected arts by the Crystal Empire. She paid most attention to the Coalition Blade exhibit. However, turning around, Felea then notices that the sword was removed from the case out of the deep blue. Felea called for her father to alert him of the missing sword. After about 12 seconds, he came by to her daughter’s side.


“It’s gone! Do you see it missing from that case?” Felea said.


When Copper Gears came closer to take a look however, the Coalition Blade appeared be inside the case. Not absent.


“You’re acting deranged, is there anything wrong?” Copper Gears asked.


“I swear it was gone, the moment I looked at the exhibit….” Felea replied.


Copper Gears turned Felea’s head around and then said, “See that? The Coalition Blade is safe and sound. Now, since we’ve spend enough time in this museum, let’s grab some dinner. It’s your favorite.”


“Yeah, that will help me get over….what just happened.”


“I’ll also tell you about the Coalition Blade on the way.”


Felea and her father headed off. Little did they know that the sword in the display was a faux, authentic-looking cardboard cut-out.


The two now appeared at the Crystal Empire’s finest dinner theatre, watching the current jousting tournament as Felea munches on pieces of her garlic bread.


“As you can see, that’s what the Coalition Blade can do, but don’t get your hopes too high on it. You might never be able to use it,” Copper Gears was explaining.


“Then why are you telling me this?” Felea asked.


“I know how you much you’d want to start flying and I know how much you like watching the jousts, but I need to remind you that you should not wield such a vast weapon, or use it for flight, since it would result in harmful effects for you,” Copper Gears continued.


“What is it ever going to take for me to soar?” Felea asked, shifting her eyes into look of discouragement.


“Never give up that dream of yours, just remember that. You’ll have to wait until some point, but to become a surefire fighter and high flyer, mark my words that you would look into something different.”


“I guess that’s true….anyways, thanks for the dinner. Nothing beats being out here with you.”


As Felea’s day continues to pass, it was now dusk and the pony went over her bedroom. Her eyes immediately turn into shock when she noticed something strange, yet familiar…


The Coalition Blade stood…


It stood out by the windowsill.


Felea would tell her father about her unusual discovery, but decided to keep the situation to herself. Things continue to stir for Felea as she notices a cloud around her shoulder forming something also quite familiar. She let out of a cough and noticed a Draconequus by her shoulder. He was like Discord, minus some attributes: his skin being red, white eyes, black pupils, and a coral snake tail.


“Go ahead, do what you want to do,” the mysterious figure said.


“Who are you? What are you? What is this sword doing in my room?” Felea questioned.


“Consider it as a home-warming offering,” he continued. “I know what you’re thinking, consider me a ghost, a figment of your imagination, or anything else. Just call me by the name of Dinu.”


“Is this really the Coalition Blade? My dad told me that the thing is too dangerous for me…” Felea replied. “What is it that you want from me?”


“Nothing….” Dinu replied. “The reason why I’d pass this thing over to you is not worth an answer. What matters right now is that I am here to provide you with some help.”


“….The choice is yours.”



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29. Fire and Ice

Here's my 6th original one-shot, and my last one before the end of 2021, the one that won me the Snowcember story contest. For this one, I've decided to experiment with a style that I haven't tackled before on this site but I've been meaning to try for a while: poetry, or in this case, haiku poetry that blurs the line between Japanese culture, story-driven poetry (which is another way of calling them 'Epics'), and animal fiction familiarized by the works of Jack London. As you can see, this is another one of my one-shot stories that just came to me naturally. Of course, I don't consider myself a professional in this lane. Chances are, I might have used one too many syllables somewhere in my paragraphs that could get me kicked out by the local haiku club's bouncer. But hey, the judging panel for the contest did like my haiku poetry well enough to give it the win, so I can say that I've accomplished something with my writing.


Winter approaches
The cold snap is quite ahead
Chills you to the bone

Autumn had fallen
The heat of the summer passed
Spring can only wait

It is the harshest
Of the four season cycle
For a few reasons

Your vital senses
Are threatened by the winter
Scent, sight, and hearing

Winter invokes fear
For 'ankle-biters' like me
Left out in the cold

Animal instinct
The most important aspect
Towards survival

I’ve learned all the ways
To live amongst the wolf pack
As an outsider

I plow through the snows
I trek through the blizzards
I keep myself warm

I skate on smooth ice
With my paws, without cracking
The delicate sheet

Out on a journey
Finding my life’s purpose
Through the Japan Alps

When we seek shelter
We spend our nights in cold caves
We keep ourselves warm

Wolves live for the hunt
They rip through flesh of their prey
And spit out the bones

As part of the pack
I soldier on in the glades
Hunting down my prey

Despite my own youth
I sink my teeth into game
Mightier than man

Bird, fish, rodent, man
I tear right into the flesh
And spit out the bones

It is a standard
When it comes to surviving
I live for the hunt

We shelter once more
It’s snowing on Mt. Fuji
Three months and counting

The blazes within
It keeps the mountain burning
And makes the soil warm

I have heard stories
Of what fire symbolizes
In both life and death

It is a resource
It‘s also a destroyer
Dividing us so

Stored in volcanoes
Fires erupt from mountaintops
Ash falls from the skies

Fire intrigues me
In the cold and stark winter
The touch, sight, and warmth

Thinking about it
There is a deep connection
Between fire and ice

The cold in my blood
And the flame that burns inside
My eyes and my heart

I feel them function
Both simultaneously
So I can survive

The hunt continues
I follow among the pack
We stretched and we scratched

Living and dying
Expectations of the hunt
We lose our own too

Heart beats like a drum
My mind like a metronome
I’ve risked death again

Afraid, that I’m not
I’ve grown to face obstacles
Though I’m young and small

Other animals
They hibernate through the cold
But I will not sleep

I’ll keep on going
My journey is not over
I keep myself warm

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30. An Amateur Writer Roasts Lily Orchard's Simple Writing Tips


Steel: Lily Orchard. If that name rings a bell, you’re probably reminded about her drama more than her own content, may it be her unending bitter feud with a certain Josh Scorcher, her infamously long and presumably nitpicky video essays on Steven Universe and Legend of Korra, or her personal put-downs on Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar…or you recognize the name because of her Twitter thread with 100 posts worth of so-called simple writing tips that the internet trashed on so hard that she’s deleted it ever since. I’ve been meaning to talk about this ever since I’ve heard about it and the subsequent reactions. I mean, she’s made herself to be quite an easy target: a brony who’s branched out into reviewing other forms of entertainment who acts like she knows everything about how to write a series well who also couldn’t provide good writing advice herself? That sounds like a story for the ages, or so I thought. Diving into this thread of writing tips, I saw quite a lot of rational statements in-between. The main problem with this thread, however, isn’t that most of these tips are bad, it’s just that Lily doesn’t seem to know the difference between advice and thinly veiled diatribes against shows, tropes, and people she dislikes, because that’s what most of these “tips” really are. That’s what I’m going to do for this off-series special for my riffing series (and it’s only fitting that I riff on this thread as myself), I am going to critique these critiques. Because it’s been recommended that I use Diregentleman’s video critiquing these “tips” (with another proclaimed professional writer friend) as reference material for my commentary (although I have my reasons not to take everything he says to heart…), I will credit him for giving me some ideas on evaluating Lily’s reprimands.


1) Don't worry about spoilers. If your story is good, spoilers aren't going to make it any less enjoyable. If spoilers make a story less enjoyable, that just means you were relying on cheap shock value as a shortcut.

Starting off with this one, I can’t really call this bad advice, as this comes off as a legitimate tip. One quip I could make about this is what she meant to say is that spoilers don’t hinder the story all that much unless the story in question is bad, which yeah…okay, I can’t really argue against that.

2) The middle point of a story is the best time to get a main couple together. Are you working on a 5 season show? Put your main couple together halfway through Season 3. The finale is the worst time because we don't get any time to enjoy the payoff.

Again, this seems like legitimate advice. As someone who suffered through four seasons of Star Vs. without getting two particular characters into an official relationship, which they’ve been teasing since the very start, I can tend to agree with this opinion. Although, I should point out that some shows aren’t always lucky enough to make it past three seasons, so this is not universal.

3) Friends to Lovers > Enemies to Lovers. Every time.

Every time, huh? Well, that’s just, like, your opinion. If anyone can make a ‘Friends to Lovers’ plot work, an ‘Enemies to Lovers’ plot can work too if it’s done right, and both types of romantic plots can be botched. It’s all about execution. If you have an example you’d like to name to justify your point, then go ahead and name something…and I mean besides She-Ra.

4) Victims of abuse moving away from the negative impacts of their abuse (ie, Zuko) and becoming healthier are not "redemption arcs."

Now that is…something that I disagree with. I’m not big on Avatar like anyone else, but from my perspective, Zuko’s backstory has been one of the most celebrated quote-unquote redemption arcs even today. If that’s not a good example of a redemption arc, then I’d like to know what is to you.

5) Heroes refusing to kill villains who have shown to be actively trying to murder people isn't "noble." It's enabling.

Ah yes, I suppose this is also pertaining to Avatar, with the whole debate on Aang not killing Ozai because it’s against his ideals to have blood on his hands, even if it’s coming from tyrannical ruler who holds responsibility for the genocide of his kind. Besides, the show ends with Ozai being stripped of his bending and being imprisoned, so I can’t imagine how that could be considered ‘enabling.’ If it’s not about Avatar though, then I can still make the argument that not killing a villain makes it enabling is just simply a hyperbolic blanket statement. And don’t get started on the Superman killing Zod double standard where that isn’t viewed as noble because ‘Superman doesn’t kill.’

6) Two women kissing in the last episode of a show after 4-5 seasons of trying to murder each other isn't "Revolutionary." It's fetishized abuse and violence.

This sounds like She-Ra slander because I don’t know what else it could be since this thread has her making rounds for criticizing the Catra/Adora ship. I could make the same type of argument with the last “tip,” as I feel calling it “fetishized abuse and violence” is a bit of an overrstatement.

7) Twitter is not an appropriate place to reveal story details. The appropriate place is IN THE WORK ITSELF!

Take notes J.K. Rowling. Otherwise, if you’re going to give out writing advice, you should keep social media-related matters separate.

😎 When a character's body count is over 10,000 innocent lives then that character is no longer redeemable.

Why should something as cockamamie as a body count number determine whether or not a character is redeemable? Are you implying that a character could still be redeemed if their kill count is 9,999? If you ask me, redemption of a character with a kill count should be determined by how callous, unjust, or remorseless their killings are (take Dio from JBA as an example of the latter, with his “How many slices of bread have you eaten in your entire life?” boast). I’ve been getting into a select few manga series that involve characters with a high enough kill count to question their morality, although they are centered on assassins, and so they are characters who are obligated by certain means to kill (i.e. Lone Wolf and Cub & Blade of the Immortal). There’s also the Adult Swim show, Primal, which is another example I could name that involves characters having high kill counts, but that’s understandable because it’s set in an era where they have to rely on primal instinct to survive, and most of the causalities aren’t particularly human, so I wouldn’t act surprised if you choose to gloss over a detail like that.

9) Tip 8 does not apply to characters for whom making them the villain was a stupid, idiotic idea (ie, Sylvanas Windrunner). At that point it's just character rerailment.

Yes, because if there’s a character whose high kill count hinders them from being redeemable, it’s none other than the villain of the story, the type of character you’re usually not supposed to root for. …But then you realize that Lily is using this “it doesn’t matter if it’s a character that I like” argument to exemplify a justification for the previous tip, which is just a dumb defense, AND of all examples you could name, why mention a character from World of Warcraft, an MMO video game series in which, as far as I’m concerned, the story isn’t the most talked-about aspect of the franchise? (Or maybe it is and I’ll have to excuse myself for my ignorance…)

10) Everything in a story is there because the creator wished it to be there. Trying to explain away bigoted story decisions using worldbuilding is a fallacy because you put it there to begin with.

There should be another “Take notes J.K. Rowling” joke in there, but I’m just going to say that I agree with this point. The authors are accountable for anything that they write into their stories. However, this isn’t really a writing tip.

11) Don't pair adults with minors. That's pedophilia.

For a thread of “writing tips” that are filled with blanket statements, this is one that I can easily let slide, because every once in a while, someone has to be called out for making any certain risqué decisions with their writing like this one.

12) Don't sexualize teenage characters.

My response to this is the same as the one above.

13) Don't make up weird anime excuses for sexualizing teenage characters ("actually 1,000", "fusion", "Age of consent in X country is..."). See Rule 10.

Y’know, if you’re going to gatekeep morally grey people from having a career in creative/industry writing, you could’ve saved these slots for real pieces of advice and make something like… “Don’t be a POS in any sense of the word. Otherwise, you do not deserve to have a career in writing for entertainment.” …as your #0 tip and I won’t have to feel like you’re going off into an unneeded tangent when the focus of this thread is to give writing tips.

14) Making a "metaphor" for gay/trans/ace rep is always inherently inferior to just making a gay/trans/ace character.

The only example of this that I can think of is that one Powerpuff Girls 2016 episode that was hyped up for its LGBTQ+ metaphor…which didn’t turn out to be the intent for the episode anyway. Otherwise, yeah, if you want to make an LGBTQ+-repping character, just make an LGBTQ+-repping character. Metaphors aren’t a bad idea, but subtlety is very important.

15) If there are humans in your story, restricting gay/trans/ace rep to the non-human characters makes you a huge turd.

Agreed, don’t do this.

16) If the only gay man in your work is a faupish diva, you're a huge turd.

Alternatively speaking, if you apply harmful, done-to-death stereotypes to your only minority members of your cast of characters, you’re a huge turd.

17) If the only lesbian in your work is an abusive rageaholic with vague angst issues and a codependent relationship to a protagonist, you're a huge turd.

Well, I can’t fault Lily for expanding on the point she’s making, but as I’ve expressed towards tip #16 above, you’re better off simply telling us that we should be cautious about writing fictional minority figures and ensure that the traits you’re applying them aren’t harmful stereotypes. By making separate tips pertaining to every specific minority under the sun, we would be here all day. As for the tip itself though, I already can tell that this is shade towards She-Ra, or more specifically towards Catra, but I can connect this critique to Ruby from Steven Universe as well.

18) If your only nonbinary character is a non-human shapeshifter, you're a huge turd.

How many non-human nonbinary shapeshifting characters do you know of to justify your point, and I mean besides Double Trouble from She-Ra? If that’s the worst possible stereotype to represent a nonbinary character to you, then I’d argue that there are worse examples than that.

19) If your only autistic character is an ethically-challenged number fetishist, you're a huge turd.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had any conversations about ASD representation in the media within your own content, but as far as I’m concerned, you don’t seem to speak for the neurodiverse community in general to have a grasp on how autistic characters should or shouldn’t be written. As an autistic rep myself, I can guarantee you that there are worse examples of autistic representation in fiction than ‘ethically-challenged number fetishist.’ I could also make a quip about how this is also She-Ra shade since Entrapta is a confirmed autistic character, but when I think of ‘ethically-challenged number fetishist’ (seriously, what kind of specific trait is that?), I don’t think of her. Maybe she’s referring to Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, although I don’t watch the show, so I wouldn’t know.

20) If your only black character is a volatile, hyper-angry brute, you're a huge turd.

I’m not going to try and gatekeep Lily for giving us advice on how black characters should and shouldn’t be written when she isn’t of color herself, so I’ll at least say though that there other harmful stereotypes towards black characters to raise awareness towards.

21) If the only black woman in your cast barely gets any screen time except to be fetishized OR fits rule 20, you're a huge turd.

If this is just about the same as rule 20 except for that one…peculiar example, you don’t have to make a separate tip for writing black characters.

22) If the only trans woman in your cast a Drag Queen in all but name, you're a huge turd.

She must really be putting out all the stops with this string of tips to tell us all the politically incorrect characters traits that’ll make us a huge turd for life if we apply them to our writing. Next thing you’ll be telling us, we’re huge turds for making our only Indian character a thick-accented Hinduist or academic, or our only ADHD character a constantly distracted and hyperactive motor mouth, or our only French character a snooty striped-shirt and beret-wearing, baguette-eating alcoholic, or our only Scottish character an incomprehensible, vulgar, Scots lingo-spewing crank, or our only Scandinavian character a literal Viking, or our only German character a literal Nazi, or…Oh wait, where was I? So yeah, the whole ‘don’t make your only trans woman a Drag Queen’ rule is something that should be followed, for sure. While this piece of advice applies to any type of trans character, subtlety matters when writing them.

23) If you force a woman to kiss her abuser, you're a huge turd.

This is prob just more She-Ra shade, so I’ll just ignore this one.

24) If you sideline every non-white character in your cast to focus on a white boy with anger issues and a tendency toward hostility getting a redemption arc, you're a huge turd.

I’m drawing a blank for what Lily is referring to, so I’ll just take the words of Diregentleman’s video as my own on what this is supposed to mean and why you shouldn’t take to this example, in which this tip regards to how you shouldn’t make a diverse cast of characters only to put almost all of your focus on a white dude’s character arc. Still though, it would’ve been a helpful tip if it weren’t so…you know, vague.

25) Justifying horny armor designs or horny clothing designs with "Sexual Agency" makes you a huge turd. Characters don't have sexual agency, you made them that way as a justification. See Rule 10.

So in other words, don’t take this video seriously:


26) Related to the above, if your justification is to just be honest and say you like ogling sexy characters, you're still a huge turd, but slightly less of a turd than the above.

Likewise, related to my riff above.

27) Don't worry about not having everything planned out beforehand. No writer or creator plans everything beforehand, and the ones who say they do are filthy liars. Writers have at best 1-2 story beats they're determined to include, everything else is by the seat of their pants

But if you do worry about not having everything planned out, does that make you a huge turd? Come on, just don’t end the chain like that. Anyway, Henry Zalley from the Diregentleman video said that this is one of the worst pieces of advice Lily has given in this thread, and it can be agreed that this is absolutely not true because the experience is different for everyone. As an amateur writer, I don’t always have everything planned beforehand. Besides writing authentic-sounding dialogue and conversations, working under pressure is my kryptonite. My ideas come to me naturally. If I have an idea that I think is good for what I’ll write, I keep a mental note of it. I’m not a pantser even if it would mean that I could write at a faster pace because well…I’ve learned from writing Dark Side of the Herd that it’s a rather lazy method of writing, and I’m not a lazy writer. Also, if you think that anyone with a profession in writing crafts most of their ideas from the seat of their pants…then you’re a huge turd. Because pantsing managed to work for some people like say…the author of the Dragon Ball manga, that doesn’t mean it works for everyone. People who have a profession in writing have to deal with obstacles such as deadlines, and it’s especially the case for manga artists/writers who have to churn out a new 20-something page chapter of a series PER WEEK while sustaining a high readership so their series does not end up getting dropped prematurely. It’s a similar case for being a deadline writer or animator for an animated series. I see complaints on the SBC Discord server almost all the time about the subject of how certain shows didn’t go the way that the creative team had originally planned it because of the show being cancelled sooner than they would’ve preferred. This is one of several reasons why working on a serialized animated show is such a big gamble. Either you turn out lucky or you don’t. Writing isn’t as easy of job as you might think it is. Writing a good story requires effort and as well as skill in multiple aspects such as grammar, depth, character development, story flow, story beats, pacing, tone, worldbuilding, and so forth.  So yeah, what I meant to say is, I think the ones you shouldn’t trust and are lying through their teeth are the ones who say that you shouldn’t worry about not having your story all planned out because most writers just B.S. their way through the process anyway. If you think this strategy works for you, fine, but keep in mind that the writing and creative process is different for everyone.

28) Don't try and "do what Avatar did." You can't. Even the people who made Avatar can't make another show do what Avatar did.

Oh hey, an actual useful tip for once, and yeah, I strongly agree with this point, but I’d say it’s more like you shouldn’t build your career on creating something that’s meant to be the next whatever, otherwise people are going to try and attach it to anything else they’re familiar with. It’s not a bad idea to take inspiration from other existing works. However, to be viewed as an original, it is practical to turn those inspirations into something of your own that’ll make your work distinguishable. In other words, don’t be another victim to the “It’s just like Dark Souls but…” crowd, be the person who starts something.

29) Low-stakes interpersonal conflict will always be more satisfying in the long run than high-stakes saving the world. "Friends" is more popular than your favorite anime for a reason.

This is such a shallow blanket statement and I don’t know where to begin with this “tip.” Like with tip #2, I can argue that it’s really all about execution and there’s no need to tell us “[This] is better than [that].” A high or low stakes show can be done right and it can be done wrong. Popularity doesn’t measure quality. If you prefer your low-stakes live-action sitcoms, good for you, but that doesn’t mean others are in the wrong for having a preference towards high-stakes anime. Besides, if there’s a clear reason for Friends’ popularity, it’s because it draws a large normie crowd. You don’t see a lot of 40 or 50-something year old men and women freaking out over My Hero Academia or whatever.

30) Choose whether you're a comedy or drama at the start and stick to it. Don't make a comedy and turn it into a drama later on, that just annoys people.

Hunter x Hunter is more popular than your favorite live-action dramedy for a reason. Oh, I’m sorry, was that too shallow and close-minded? Okay, with all seriousness, I can agree with this point, but ‘A factor to good story-writing is a consistent tone’ would be my way of saying it. I’ve learned that lesson from looking back at the inconsistencies of my own writing in Guru Gakuto.

31) Worldbuilding is like salt. A pinch can make it better, 10 cups of it will not.

Once again, I have to agree, as this does feel like an actual tip. In a lot of certain aspects in writing a story, you should go for quality over quantity, and I wouldn’t say that for worldbuilding alone. Having too many characters or too many plot threads can be a bad thing too.

32) Characters should always come before anything else.

Again, I wouldn’t say ‘ALWAYS,’ but I still agree with this point, as I tend to put character development first before building the world and plot that revolves around them.

33) The protagonist should be a protagonist, not just a vessel for the antagonist to hog the story. If you're going to make a villain protagonist, just open with that.


34) Perspective shifts are a staple of storytelling. Having only one perspective isn't a "stylistic choice" it's just crap.

Okay. Name one bad example of single character perspective storytelling and one very good example of multi-perspective storytelling that cements itself as a ‘staple of storytelling’ and maybe then I’ll understand where the hell you’re getting at with this blanket statement. If multi-POV narratives are your preference over single-POV narratives, then it’s purely preference. Any other style of narrative is not going for the “stylistic choice” defense nor is it an objectively bad way of telling a story just because you have a differing opinion on them.

35) If you're making a cartoon, hire writers. Don't just have your storyboarders write the story. That's not what they're there for. Artists draw, writers write, artists cannot just take over for the writers on a whim.

BULL. SHIT. You shouldn’t have every right to dictate what any particular member of an animation staff is meant and only meant to do when you don’t seem to have experience in this line of work yourself. In the sense that you should hire boarders or writers when you need them exclusively for said job, then yeah, I can understand where you’re getting at, but simply having someone on your staff who can both write and draw isn’t going to hinder the quality of the work as long as they can do a good job at both. It should also be pointed out that getting a career in animation requires education and experience in more than one area. I may be more of a writer than an artist, but I’ve faced the facts that if I wanted to attain work in the animation field and get my ideas pitched, I need experience as an artist, as animation is, of course, an art form. Besides, having experience from more than just one area for a medium can be beneficial, and for some people, including me, they don’t want to feel like they should be put in a box and stay in one exclusive lane.

36) Related to Rule 2: Will They, Won't They isn't a fun story. It's just addiction-peddling. We need to stop pretending Ross/Rachel was good storytelling and learn to appreciate Chandler/Monica and Joey/Rachel.

But…you just said that Friends is more popular than MY favorite anime! Why are you now criticizing the show for its romance plots? Also, if these ‘Will they? Won’t they?’ storylines keep the audience engaged in the thing that they enjoy, and then it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some specific works by Rumiko Takahashi like Ranma and Inuyasha live and breathe the ‘Will they? Won’t they?’ plot, and yet I’m into them regardless because they have something more to them than “addiction-peddling” that keeps me hooked. However, I can see how this type of plot can be done wrong, and that depends on the over-reliance of this trope and ends up eclipsing every other story aspect for me.

37) "Romance Trope, but gay" is not an absolute rule to live by. If She Ra taught us anything it's that "Gay Reylo" was not actually an improvement.

Why use She-Ra as an example only to pivot towards Star Wars? If you hate writers establishing abusive romance tropes, then just speak out against those rather than “your ship is bad and you should feel bad.”

38) Someone on this hellsite once made the remark "We need more lesbian noncon because purity is boring." That is a dangerous, violent person. Do not listen to them, they do not have a point, seriously my fucking god what is wrong with you people?!

…And that’s just another one of many good reasons not to use Twitter.

39) Women who fetishize abuse (Reylos, Catradoras, KiGos, ect) and present it as something feminist and paint detractors as misogynists are gaslighting you. Don't listen to them.

Once again, keep social media-related matters separate, thank you, but yeah, if it’s someone like a SJW who’s dying on a hill defending these types of ships, then I believe you in not listening to them or wasting time on them. Although, if it’s someone who just has different taste in ships than you do and aren’t looking to pick a fight about it, then I’d say let them indulge in their questionable yet exotic interests *shrug*.

40) If abuse fetishists are giving you shit for not caving to their demands, just block them. Don't argue with them, don't debate them, don't treat them with good faith. Just block them and get on with your day.

This is not writing advice, moving on.

41) Rape victims are not villains and should never be written as villains. Don't be like @Blizzard_Ent . It costs $0 to not be a misogynistic pig.

Does it cost $0 to be one as well? Look, I can very much agree that rape as drama is hard to do right. Rape survivors as villains can work if it isn’t framed as anything tasteless or misogynistic. The way I see it being done right, that type of past trauma can serve as an engaging backstory to illustrate said antagonist’s excuse for their actions the same way as it can serve as motivation for a protagonist who is also a rape survivor. If your one example of bad rape survivor villains is from an Activision Blizzard game (…which I assume is WoW again, because they own the rights to it), then you might want to give more examples if this sort of trope has been done wrong multiple times to justify why you’ve made this tip not to just throw shade at Activision Blizzard.

42) If straight men really hate a certain character, but lesbians love them, there's an 90% chance that is your best character.

The best way to deal with liking a character that a certain other group seems to really hate is to not care what other people think, just saying.

43) If one of your writers believes Simon (Infinity Train) was misunderstood and Grace is a villain, that writer should be fired immediately.

I have not seen Infinity Train yet to argue this point, so I’m just going to skip to the next one.

44) The best solution to a love triangle is polyamory.

Alternatively speaking, the best solution to a love triangle is to not write one.

45) If you have a male character who actually shows respect and admiration to a woman, and some of your viewers call that character a "simp" there is a 90% chance you have a good character.

In other words, if your male protagonist doesn’t respect women, then you’re a huge turd.

46) "Mary Sue" is not a real criticism. It's thinly veiled misogyny. Always disregard it.

It’s more of a problem with idiots throwing the word around no matter the context, to the point where the precise meaning of the term is debatable, rather than just an issue with guys using the word as an excuse for their sexism, which you’re not wrong for, but still. If you ask around, you’ll notice how much of an umbrella term Mary Sue has become for quote-unquote bad character writing. Mary Sue could mean a character who is perfect in a lot of things, it could mean a character who is “too likeable,” it could mean a character who is “overpowered,” it could simply mean a character that you hate…or it could mean a character that is too idealistic, a thinly-veiled representation of the author themselves, lacks real traits, flaws, and/or depth to make us connect with this character, which as far as I’m concerned, is what exactly defines a Mary Sue, but even then, it’s not like it matters anyway because it stopped being valid constructive criticism the more prevalent it was, and especially when I witnessed folks blindly throwing the word around come the reveals of Chloe from FOP and Bliss from the PPG reboot. In addition, it’s not just guys who used the term as a crutch to criticize characters that they dislike or think are bad female representation, women have been using the term as well, although it’s most usually out of concern for how these characters of the gender that they represent are written. I could keep going all day with this discussion, but I’ll stop right here, since I already know that I’ve been dragging this.

47) Emotional vulnerability does not make a female character "antifeminist."

Again, this isn’t even a tip, so I’m not touching this.

48) Goblins are inherently anti-Semitic


49) If your first thought when told about a bigoted trope (Bury your gays, Goblins, ect) is to try and figure out how to "do it well" you are a huge turd who is missing the point. It's not that these tropes aren't "done well", it's that they're done too much.

And your point is…that you don’t want writers to take risks? Also, what do you mean that you think these specific tropes are bad because “they’re done too much”? You may have already suggested that you dislike these tropes because they’ve been done wrong multiple times or simply because they’re bigoted.

50) Writing a relationship based on a "dynamic" or trying to get a particular trope (ie, enemies to lovers) into the story is a bad decision.

You already called the enemies to lovers trope bad a while ago, there’s no need to repeat yourself.

51) Vitriol does not immediately render criticism invalid. If you tone police criticism, you will likely miss something important.

Okay, so this is the point where Lily stops giving advice on writing and starts going off on a tangent by giving advice on dealing with people on the internet. Now, outrage culture can feel justified, but that depends on the matter at hand. If it’s not worth being outraged about, then as Kim Possible would say, it’s so not the drama.

52) Your fandom will fight and argue. This is how people solve conflicts. It's typically better to let people fight it out than to be complacent and beg people to "just stop fighting."

Like I’ve said a few times already, I’ll say this again: keep social media-related issues separate if this is about simple writing advice.

53) Related to the above, "every headcanon is valid" should never leave your mouth. Do you want pedophiles and fascists in your fanbase? Because that's how you get pedophiles and fascists in your fanbase.

Once again, if you’re going to police certain people, then you could’ve imposed a Rule #0 by saying “No pedos/fascists/sexists/racists/anti-Semitics/homophobes/transphobes/incels/zoophiles/etc. allowed!” than have to do it on a thread meant for writing advice every chance you get.

54) Speaking out against abuse fetishists, pedophiles, and bigots in your fanbase will always be better in the long run than being quiet or complacent. It might be exhausting to deal with, but it's better for everyone in the long run.

But wait, you just said that we’re better off letting the fanbase clear the smoke when it comes to fan discourse. Either you think we should be quiet and complacent about scumbags in the fandom, or we shouldn’t. Pick a side. I’d go with the former because, look…the internet is full of scumbags, but that doesn’t mean we should try to take on them all head on. We don’t need to be the superhero everyone needs and step in to rid of all that is evil. Even when it comes to policing certain people, there are risks to consider, and if it means drawing unwanted attention to them (For sure, Butch Hartman has a variety of reasons why he doesn’t talk about Randy Stair, and there’s a variety of reasons why SEGA or Nintendo don’t talk about Chris-Chan), then I feel the best thing you could do is to just not engage, because like you said, we can’t just expect to make a change for the better by telling the fans to “just stop fighting.” Fandoms are going to have toxic representation no matter how much we try to eradicate these people.

55) "Fanservice" is a concept you should never think about. Fans who need to be "serviced" are not actually fans. If you have fans, those fans are already having fun and don't need to be pandered to.

To assume that anyone is a fake fan for whatever reason is just bad of a belief to stick to. If anyone has a problem with not having their demands met, it’s on them and it means little about how that behavior dictates whether or not they are fans.

56) The tendency for shipping to dominate discourse is the biggest sign that characters and their relationships are more satisfying than anything else. People didn't petition for a 4th season of Kim Possible to see what happened with Drakken or to see new villains.


57) Complaints about "too much negativity" is shooting the messenger. If there is an overabundance of negativity, that means there's things to be negative about. People cannot be positive without things to be positive about.

Some people just have problems dealing with honest feedback. Some people can own up while others may continue struggling with negativity, and I think it’s all normal.

58) If you do something bigoted and get yelled at for it, listen to the people yelling at you. Cancel Culture isn't real, the rage and vitriol will be gone in two weeks, and you'll be a better person for it. Getting yelled at stopped being "the end of the world" at age 10.

If you have been paying attention, Lily, Cancel Culture has more to do with “getting yelled at” and more to do with being silenced and publicly shunned as a person, whether it’s because of something stupid or something that is just. It all depends on the context. I mean, I do have a thick skin and if I ever find myself dealing with this, I’m not going to be a coward and let the disparagers eat me alive. At least understand though that not everyone is entitled to come out of being publicly shamed without experiencing some emotional scar tissue. Perhaps the outrage can only last a week or so, but for anyone who falls off real hard, that outrage can last longer. Also, as someone who had to deal with occasional bickering parents until they split, you have no right to say that being yelled at is no big deal.

59) The quickest and easiest way to make yelling stop is to own up to the mistake, don't make excuses (or explain why you did the bad thing), fix it, and never repeat it. Progressives are very forgiving if you give them results. Stubbornness is what gets people cancelled.

BUT YOU JUST SAID CANCEL CULTURE ISN’T REAL- Uuuugggggh. Also, there are more factors that contribute to being publicly shamed than just being stubborn. You shouldn’t dictate what Cancel Culture is and how we should deal with it you don’t think it affects you.

60) "Forced Diversity" is a right-wing dogwhistle, not a criticism.

Most arguments I’ve seen being made about “Forced Diversity” is in bad faith, so…I’ll just go ahead and agree with this, even though, again, it’s not writing advice.

61) "Reclaimed" slurs are not universal, and as such should NEVER be included in a work.

Using reclaimed slurs depend on a particular person’s personal comfort and if you’re not comfortable with using the Q-word, then yeah, I understand what you’re saying. I’m not LGBTQ+ nor am I of color, so I don’t have much of a say if you should never say never on this topic though.

62) Oppressed people fighting against their oppressors are not "Villains." No I don't care if you think they "went too far." Not all those who respond with violence are wrong, and not all those who preach nonviolence are right to do so.

Disregarding that this is yet another vague post towards something, I can’t think of anyone who would be dumb enough to paint these types of characters as villains.

63) Related to the above: A good spin on the "Heroes who never kill" mantra is to highlight how refusing to kill a villain who later goes on to kill more innocent people makes the hero responsible for those deaths. There's a free story theme for ya.

But you’ll still criticize whatever uses this theme anyway because it cements your earlier point about how refusing to kill a villain is ‘enabling.’ Am I right, am I wrong?

64) If you're writing fantasy and you have no issue having dragons in your world but suddenly think people of color are "unrealistic" because "something something Medivel Europe" you're a huge turd. And an idiot.

Yeah, ‘cause when fantasy is another way of calling your story speculative fiction, you should have no excuse for not being inclusive when you give yourself the power to do anything that you want with the world you’re building.

65) Sexual Tension and Chemistry are not the only indicators of a potential relationship, and in a relationship is the quickest thing to fade.

…I’m a virgin who’s never been in a real relationship, so I’m in no position to argue with this one.

66) The best potential romantic partner for a character is her best friend. They're best friends for a reason.

This is basically the same advice as friends to lovers > enemies to lovers, but since this is not another excuse to bash the latter, I’ll easily let this slide.

67) "I don't want X character to be defined by her relationships" is a stupid philosophy to have. EVERYONE is defined by their relationships. That's how human beings work.

And yet you let Catra and Adora’s relationship define their respective characters for you and write them off because it’s “fetishizing abuse.”

68) If you don't want a character to only be remembered for a romantic subplot, don't end the story on that subplot reaching it's conclusion. Give it time to sink in and become the new "normal" for the viewer. The memorable moment will always be the LAST moment.

When it comes to making a memorable character that’s in a romantic relationship, it should be about personality most of the time. If the bulk of your character’s personality is being the love interest for another character, then that’s the issue to fix.

69) "Slow Burn" does not mean "Taking forever to get together." It means "Full series long romantic subplot." Getting together is the START of a romantic subplot, not the end.

But isn’t that what slow burns are? Taking forever to get to a certain point in a story?

70) "Sexual Awakening" is not a real character arc.


71) The only people who think "Boob Armor" makes sense are people who have never touched a boob.

I feel attacked. Seriously though, what the heck kind of argument is that?

72) The Bow and Arrow are strength weapons, not dexterity weapons. Female characters who do archery should naturally be very physically strong. Longbows have a draw weight of 80-150lbs. Rangers are always stronger than Warriors, deal with it.

Apparently, this tip was provided with an accompanying image from World of Warcraft in the original tweet. WoW lists Warriors and Rangers as classes, so I don’t know what else she could be referring to. Again, for a thread dedicated to simple writing tips, I can’t see how World of Warcraft could be integral for these prompts. Even if you’re writing for a video game, I don’t see how categorizing bow and arrow as dexterity weapons is going to royally screw over your story. Second of all, this philosophy is utter B.S. anyway because skill in archery does indeed involve dexterity. If you have acquired knowledge about weaponry, you can say what you will. If you don’t, then don’t act like you know everything about them.

73) The best way to avoid tokenism is multiple characters.

It’s funny. Instead of that string of tips telling us that we’re a huge turd for applying overdone or harmful stereotypes to our only minority-repping character, you could’ve just said this (well, aside that multiple characters is indeed a good way to avoid your characters being viewed as token minorities).

74) Want an easy way to become more accustomed to diverse casts? Limit your "Straight, white, cis" characters to one of each. Those can be three characters for each trait, or pack it all into one character, but only one of each.

Or…just don’t seclude your character designs to just white people, plain and simple.

75) Don't be afraid of failure and backlash. If someone is screaming at you about how a character you made is racist, that is literally free writing advice that someone is just giving you. Look on the bright side of life for a change.

If your point is that we should hold ourselves accountable for having made bigoted writing mistakes, then I would agree with you. Backlash is nothing to worry about us unless the public tries to make it so that you end up never living something down, regardless if you’re being given “free writing advice.” Again, Cancel Culture is more than just “getting yelled at.”

76) People of color and LGBTA people are allowed to just exist. Don't feel like you HAVE to cover bigotry just because they're in the story. In fact, people will be happier if you don't because having these characters defined by suffering is itself a tired trope.

Yes, I agree. We live in a time period where more diverse representation is needed. However, it’s not such a bad idea to cover bigotry, unless the topic becomes the bulk of the character’s development (like Lily herself has pointed out) and if it’s virtue signaling. Not everyone is open-minded and every once in a while we need to teach certain people something along the lines of ‘Don’t be a bigot. Being accepting of others can get you far in life.’

77) "I just want my readers/viewers to have fun" is an excellent attitude to have when it comes to storytelling.

A key component in good storytelling is if the author themselves are having fun writing their story as well, and while I’d add to this tip with that, I can agree that this is a good mindset to have when writing your stories.

78) As a general rule, Slice of Life has always been a more popular genre than Action/Adventure.

Again, mind the difference between ‘rules’ and ‘tips.’ This is the same argument as before with Friends being “more popular than your favorite anime,” so just stop trying to force-feed your own philosophy onto others that because one genre is more popular than the other, it is therefore the best.

79) "Feature Creep" is a problem in storytelling as well. You don't have to cram every single idea, reference and homage you can think of into a story. You can save ideas for another time.

 ‘Feature creep’ is only a buzzword for video games, but I can see where you’re getting at and I agree. There are only so many ideas you could have for one story and your story can end up being a big mess if you try to cram so much material into it.

80) D&D Alignments are terrible metrics for character design. They're meant as a quick reference for improvisation in a TTRPG environment and shouldn't be taken outside that environment.

So now you’re telling us that we can’t take inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons? Next thing you’ll be telling me, we should never take inspiration from Rocky Horror Picture Show.

81) When writing LGBTA characters, stay as far away from "Rocky Horror Picture Show" as you possibly can. Some gay people hold it up as a meaningful part of our "culture." It is not. It's a transmisogynistic nightmare made by an actual TERF, not a reference guide for ANYTHING.

And speak of the devil. I never watched Rocky Horror Picture Show nor do I plan to, so I guess I’ll just say that I dodged a bullet and move on. That and one of the best reference guides for writing LGBTQ+ characters are from actual members of the community, just to make a point.

82) The Q-slur as a concept tactily reinforces heteronormativity by casting LGBTA people as inherently "strange." In "No Big Deal" representation, the word should be avoided. Normalizing LGBTA people and the Q-Slur are like oil and water and don't go together.

This is the same point that she’s already made with “tip” #61, so I’ll just skip this.

83) Rape is an unforgivable crime, more so than killing. Killing can potentially be justified in a story without becoming a villain. Rape cannot.

In other words, rape is bad and murder is bad, and justifying either won’t you get anywhere. What other such though-provoking facts do you have to share?

84) Sex scenes are never necessary. You want to include one because you're horny, then more power to you. But any attempt to justify it as "important to the story" will only get you laughed at.

Well, if porn’s not your thing, it’s not your thing, and sure, I suppose sex scenes are not really necessary…unless you’re writing for smutty fanfiction or a legit porno where those types of scenes are the meat and bones of your story. As long as those sex scenes aren’t problematic by any means, they shouldn’t be such a major hindrance.

85) "Strong" characters can still cry and need support from others. Vulnerability is not a character flaw.

It’s not that vulnerability doesn’t essentially give a character flaws. Rather it’s pretty much an easy shortcut for writing them. In other words…yeah, I agree. It’s what makes a character feel vulnerable that establishes a particular flaw that they have than vulnerability by itself.

86) "Peak TV" is a fancy way of saying "Addiction-fueled misery porn."

I don’t think literally anyone calls it that except you, so what’s your point?

87) Addiction-based storytelling relies on serialization, cliffhangers, "shocking twists", constantly raised stakes, and an obsession with foreshadowing to get people to watch not because they're enjoying themselves but because they're stuck on a tension high.

Look…I know serialized shows aren’t your thing (and clearly enough, most anime in general), but that doesn’t mean fans of these types of shows are just “addicted” and are only watching these shows because they’re somehow slaves to all those tropes that you consider as cheap tactics to fuel their addiction. If those people are actually having fun watching these particular shows and are engaged with those stories for reasons that aren’t related to addiction-peddling, then it’s not a matter of bad storytelling. If you’re not into these shows, then just shut up, stop making petty assumptions, and let people enjoy what they enjoy and you won’t be judged for your personal tastes either. Sure, things like cliffhangers, twists, and raised stakes can be annoying if they’re heavily relied on, but they have reasons to exist in any story, and I can assure you it’s not to make viewers “addicted,” rather to keep them invested. They are hooks, and without hooks of any kind, you’ve got a really boring story.

87, Pt 2) By the end, the viewer is only watching for closure because they've already invested so much and they need their fix in order to feel like it was worth it. This is the same business model that soap operas use.

Oh yeah, because if there’s one thing that’s going to determine the quality of your serialized show in the long run, it’s the payoff, and for some shows like Star Vs., the payoff isn’t always going to turn out good. Of course, serialization doesn’t automatically make your story or concept good, but taking this sort of risk of writing a continuous storyline doesn’t mean it’s destined for disaster either. The viewer will watch a serialized show until the end for closure, because yes, it’s always going to be the payoff that matters in the end, but you’ve already lost me on the first half of your spiel about “addiction-based storytelling,” so I’m not going to bother trying to point out that the viewers are looking forward to more than just closure.

88) If the Sunk Cost Fallacy didn't exist, shows like Steven Universe and Game of Thrones would have been cancelled by Season 2.

Congrats, you’ve just reminded us for the one-thousandth time that Steven Universe sucks. Do you want a cookie for saying that – a really big cookie?

89) Hardcore fans will tell you that "Continuity" is the most important thing. They're wrong.

Not THE most important, sure, but it’s still important to make sure that your story is consistent.

90) "This is too political" is a complaint only made by conservatives when a story acknowledges that non-white and non-straight people exist. The existence of other kinds of people is not political. Ignore these complaints.

While we’re at it, we should also ignore the conservative snowflakes spewing these complaints too.

91) The Little Mermaid and Cinderella are more feminist than Beauty and the Beast.


92) If you want to know when to change a trans character's pronouns in the narration, doing so at the moment where they realize who they are and admit it to themselves out loud is *chef's kiss*

As someone who has written a character coming out as trans in Sub-Tropical Academy, I can strongly agree with this point because I have abided to this tip before.

93) As long as it isn't harmful or bigoted, you don't have to justify story decisions made on the basis of self-indulgence.

Says the same YouTube reviewer who said that writing sex scenes are pointless and your only excuse for writing them is because you’re horny.

94) Vampires/Werewolves are not inherently "LGBTA-Coded" and doing so is an example of othering. They work better as metaphors for aristocracy and predators respectively than as the "Underclass."

…I’ll skip this one.

95) Some of the best stories ever made were written as an act of spite.


96) Any system of government (with the exception of Fascism) can exist in a positive or negative context. Monarchies are not always inherently evil (see Hawaii pre-annexation) and Democracies are not always inherently good (See USA). Write accordingly.

So…Fascism can only exist in a negative context (which I understand), but Marxism can be framed in a positive light? If you’re just going to vague-post your personal opinions on these things, you’re not making so much progress.

97) "Lesbian still on good terms with ex-boyfriend from before coming out" is a really cute friendship trope. And vice versa.

Agreed, and since we got just a few of these tips left, let’s breeze through those too.

98) The only real difference between an extremely close platonic relationship and a romantic relationship is what the people involved choose to call it. Best Friends are not something that should ever be prefixed with the word "Just."

No | SpongeBob SquarePants | Know Your Meme

99) Normalize friends saying "I love you" to each other.

File:Yes logo.svg - Wikimedia Commons

100) If you write a 100-tweet long thread of writing advice, you are a huge loser with way too much free time on your hands. Get back to work and do something productive with your time!

If only you thought about that before actually writing this and letting your over-confidence get the better of you. Sorry honey, self-awareness alone is not going to erase the actions that you’ve already committed to.

101) "Tips" and "Rules" are two different words.

Again, if only if you realized this simple mistake before you wasted your time writing all these diatribes. I can definitely see why now she decided to delete all these tweets.


So that wraps up Lily’s big, stupid thread worth of 100 “simple writing tips,” and yeah, this was a mess. Were there some good points made here and there? Yes. Should this be viewed as a good reference guide for anyone with a professional writer goal set in mind? Absolutely not, because not only were there a lot of one-sided and vague tips, there were a bunch of inconsistent ramblings in-between as well that defy the term ‘tips.’ Again, my main issue with this big list of “writing advice” is that most of these posts aren’t tips and are rather more like excuses for Lily to peddle her personal views and biases. Even when there are actual tips, most of them are restrictive rather than they do try to boost the confidence of hopeful writers, which is what they are meant to do. There were an excessive amount of ‘don’t’ pieces than ‘do’ pieces of advice. Don’t write this. Don’t write that. Don’t worry about this or that. Don’t try this or that. Do not pass ‘Go.’ Do not collect $200. Skimming through these tips, you just can’t help but ask: “What EXACTLY defines good storytelling to you, Lily?” Sadly, the vague tone for a lot of these so-called tips does her no justice. Especially when you trace back most of these vague posts to a few specific examples like Steven Universe, She-Ra, World of Warcraft, Friends, ATLA, Star Wars, and Disney, it’s telling of how small Lily’s frame of reference is, which must be why she was impartial to listing as many examples as needed to back up her arguments where they would’ve been needed (well besides the whole Twitter character limit per post excuse. I’ll say more about Twitter later).

If you want to make a thread of writing tips, then do that. If you want to give yourself venting room to express your personal social justice views, then do that and don’t try to disguise it as something else like “Lily Orchard’s Declassified Internet Survival Guide.” When you’re meant to focus on one particular subject, you must stay consistent to that subject. Otherwise, people are going to ridicule you for going off-topic like you did.

With this many tips,  and a generous amount of bad ones to boot, you could make a top ten list for the worst pieces from this whole thread, and that’s what I’m going to do… (while, of course, excluding my choices to those that actually read like tips):

Steel’s Top Ten Worst Simple Writing Tips from Lily Orchard:

10. 98) The only real difference between an extremely close platonic relationship and a romantic relationship is what the people involved choose to call it. Best Friends are not something that should ever be prefixed with the word "Just."
-There’s a big reasons why platonic relationships and romantic relationships are called us such and because ‘best friends’ are another way of saying “They should f***” to you, that doesn’t mean every other fictional pair with a very close platonic friendship should go the romantic route, if that’s the argument you’re trying to make.
9. 50) Writing a relationship based on a "dynamic" or trying to get a particular trope (ie, enemies to lovers) into the story is a bad decision.
-If there’s a particular bias that gets repeated multiple times over the course of this thread besides “I hate serialization,” it’s “I hate enemies to lovers relationships,” and the more that Lily tries to hammer in that philosophy, the more I’ve disagreed with it. I know we can’t make you like that trope Lily, but if you want to present a good argument against it, you have to have a broader frame of reference than “enemies to lovers trope is bad because She-Ra did it bad and it’s fetishizing abuse, deal with it.” Also, what kind of criticism is “you shouldn’t write relationships based on dynamics?” You’ve already contradicted that point anyway by saying that characters should be defined by their relationships because, in your own words, that’s how human beings work.
8. 19) If your only autistic character is an ethically-challenged number fetishist, you're a huge turd.
-This feels like something that I could put higher since as I speak as someone with ASD, I can argue that this is such an over-simplified piece of advice regarding writing autistic characters. Autistic representation at its worst is a character that exhibits either one of these: constantly disruptive, constantly infantilized by the other characters, exemplifies the “child prodigy as personality trait” rule, a non-human metaphor, uses their neurodivergence as an excuse for their actions, and lacking empathy or emotion among other things. Just ask someone on the spectrum on how an autistic character should not be written and they’ll provide you with the same amount of material that I just did. If you still stand by this claim that this is the worst stereotype for autistic characters, then we can have this conversation and debate it together.
7. TIE: 20) If your only black character is a volatile, hyper-angry brute, you're a huge turd.
21) If the only black woman in your cast barely gets any screen time except to be fetishized OR fits rule 20, you're a huge turd.
-If you’re going to tell hopeful writers how they should not write characters of color despite not being of color yourself, this is where I have to draw the line. There are worse Hollywood stereotypes that have been applied to these types of characters and the best way to get a grasp on what those are is to ask a person of color for reference. While I can’t guarantee that black representation in entertainment is every bit of improving these days, the industry seems to be liable in ensuring that the way they interpret these characters don’t contribute to heavy backlash.
6. 84) Sex scenes are never necessary. You want to include one because you're horny, then more power to you. But any attempt to justify it as "important to the story" will only get you laughed at.
-Sexual content is hit-or-miss for a variety reasons. You don’t have to like porn, and I am one of those people who don’t, but if that’s not your thing at all, you don’t have to criticize sex scenes for just existing, nor do you do have to talk down anyone for writing them because it somehow means that you’re either a filthy pervert who aims for fantasy fulfillment, or you’re just a moron for trying to justify them as important to writing your story. It’s not like because “Sausage Party” had one pointless sex scene, that it means all other scenes of the like are virtually pointless.
5. 5) Heroes refusing to kill villains who have shown to be actively trying to murder people isn't "noble." It's enabling.
-There’s a reason why I’ve quipped about the whole double standard surrounding the outrage for Aang not killing Ozai versus the outrage towards Superman killing Zod in Man of Steel. We all can’t seem to agree if a character killing a villain should be viewed as noble or hypocritical. Whatever the means, refusing to kill a villain should not be labeled as ‘enabling,’ because there’s the counterargument that heroes who do kill the villain despite being against the thought of it would make their actions no better than the villain’s. Besides, over fifty tips later, Lily suggested a story theme where the hero ends up being responsible for the villain taking out more lives because they refused to kill them because it would prove this very point even if she would still hate it anyway, which now makes this tip null and void.
4. 49) If your first thought when told about a bigoted trope (Bury your gays, Goblins, ect) is to try and figure out how to "do it well" you are a huge turd who is missing the point. It's not that these tropes aren't "done well", it's that they're done too much.
-Once this argument translates to “Don’t even try challenging yourself as a writer,” then I’m sorry Lily, we’re not the huge turds here for the missing the point, you are.
3. 34) Perspective shifts are a staple of storytelling. Having only one perspective isn't a "stylistic choice" it's just crap.
-I could’ve said this for the tip above, but it’s also relevant towards this vague post: to assume that we should never try a certain approach with our writing because YOU think it’s crap is bad writing advice. I don’t think there is such thing as bad tropes, but I do believe in mishandling them. Multiple perspectives, single-person perspectives, it’s all completely subjective and neither method is “the only right method” to use.
2. 27) Don't worry about not having everything planned out beforehand. No writer or creator plans everything beforehand, and the ones who say they do are filthy liars. Writers have at best 1-2 story beats they're determined to include, everything else is by the seat of their pants
-If anyone ever had the bright mind to tell you this, that person never likely had a job in professional writing before, so just don’t listen to this.
1. 35) If you're making a cartoon, hire writers. Don't just have your storyboarders write the story. That's not what they're there for. Artists draw, writers write, artists cannot just take over for the writers on a whim.
-The tip above may be commonly agreed to be the worst piece of writing advice from Lily, but as someone who has an animation career goal set in mind…this one hurt me the most. If you have the experience to back this claim, then I can take it for what I will. If you don’t, then just shut up.

Of course, there are some acceptable pieces of advice that should be acknowledged, so I’m going to be throwing Lily a bone:

Steel’s Top Ten Best Simple Writing Tips from Lily Orchard:

10. 46) "Mary Sue" is not a real criticism. It's thinly veiled misogyny. Always disregard it.
-Besides that it’s been used as a tool for misogynists, always disregard it because it’s not valid criticism by any means, regardless of your opinion on the term and how it’s used. It is an umbrella term for multiple actual character criticisms, and use of the word has more negative connotations than good anyway. I know I’m cheating with this one, but I do think this can read as writing advice in the vein that you shouldn’t have to worry about writing a “Mary Sue” and that if your character has personality, a good balance of strengths and weaknesses, and isn’t based on you, you’re not writing a bad character.
9. 32) Characters should always come before anything else.
-This is a strategy that I tend to stick to, which is why I agree with this one. It’s not universal for everyone and you don’t have to apply this strategy for your writing, but I can see it working for most people.
8. 30) Choose whether you're a comedy or drama at the start and stick to it. Don't make a comedy and turn it into a drama later on, that just annoys people.
-Speaking from my own writing experience, I can confirm that it’s best that the tone of your story stays consistent. If you want to shift the tone of your story, you can, though. The change just needs to feel fluid to work.
7. 79) "Feature Creep" is a problem in storytelling as well. You don't have to cram every single idea, reference and homage you can think of into a story. You can save ideas for another time.
-Disregarding that the topic of ‘Feature creep’ should be exclusive to the video games conversation, it is important to note that you shouldn’t try to cram so much material into your own story. When you’re a creative writer, it can be a habit to form ideas that aren’t pre-attached to a story concept. Just save those ideas until you come up with a concept where that idea could work.
14) Making a "metaphor" for gay/trans/ace rep is always inherently inferior to just making a gay/trans/ace character.
-If there’s one thing that I can trust Lily with, it’s providing writing advice on characters from a group that I know she does represent. When you’re writing for a children’s cartoon though, it is understandable having to over-simplify the LGBTQ+ implications by using metaphors. However, when you have the freedom to write these characters, metaphors are never really necessary.
5. 92) If you want to know when to change a trans character's pronouns in the narration, doing so at the moment where they realize who they are and admit it to themselves out loud is *chef's kiss*
-The best kind of writing advice are the ones that you feel most passionate about sharing, and it was rare to see Lily giving off this attitude with this piece. Once again, I’m using my own prior writing experience to reaffirm that this is good writing advice.
4. 76) People of color and LGBTA people are allowed to just exist. Don't feel like you HAVE to cover bigotry just because they're in the story. In fact, people will be happier if you don't because having these characters defined by suffering is itself a tired trope.
-I should point out that bigotry can be covered as long as the topic isn’t the bulk of your character’s development. Otherwise, yes, it’s a good idea to let people from diverse backgrounds exist in the world you’re creating without having to cover serious subject matter, as it’s already an easy way for yourself be viewed as an ally for any respective group, as long as the representation is positive.
3. 28) Don't try and "do what Avatar did." You can't. Even the people who made Avatar can't make another show do what Avatar did.
-In other words, don’t make the basis of your story trying to be just like another pre-existing work. Nothing is truly original, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t try to be an original, and what it means to be viewed as an original is to be able to start something than try to repeat the success of another existing work, otherwise people are going to attach your creation to the other no matter what.
2. 93) As long as it isn't harmful or bigoted, you don't have to justify story decisions made on the basis of self-indulgence.
I could’ve said it earlier that I strongly agreed with this point, but aside from my quip earlier relating to her hypocrisy for saying that we shouldn’t bother justifying sex scenes or sexualized armor if it’s out of self-indulgence, yes, as long as the reasons aren’t bigoted, harmful, or misinformed, you shouldn’t worry about making story decisions based on self-indulgence, and it’s amusing how out of character it was in a sense for Lily to utter this. Do whatever you want with your stories. As long as your decisions aren’t immoral, then you don’t have to worry about people criticizing you for making them.
1. 77) "I just want my readers/viewers to have fun" is an excellent attitude to have when it comes to storytelling.
-Indeed it is. A good way of telling if your story is good is if you’re having fun writing it and then envisioning the people you’d want to read and enjoy it.


Despite my feelings going into this thread, I don’t show a lot of animosity towards Lily Orchard here. She knew the repercussions of taking all of her jotted-down thoughts and passing them all off as writing tips by posting them on Twitter, and I can judge by the fact that after it caught the attention of most people, her deleting all said tweets was her way of taking the L. If I was her and I became the subject of ridicule for this, I would’ve done the same thing. I don’t think all these ramblings reflect all of Lily’s current opinions and I hope that she understands that folks have riffed this thread because it makes for interesting riffing material and that she has the sense of humor to appreciate how we’ve been evaluating these tips, and that it’s not done out of sheer malice. These past few years have been rough for the cartoon community, and while 2022 hasn’t been off to such a great start for me, I’m feeling confident that I can stick to one goal that I have in mind where I can put all of my thoughts to rest on this un-ending dumpster fire of an animation community…starting now. With all that said, I'll cap things off by giving credit to Gus and Henry from the Diregentlemen channel for reference. Just go and watch their video on those same tips if you want a better grasp on why they're good or bad, and I also have to give credit to a DeviantArt user named BriannaFreeman for providing the best in-text template for the Twitter thread that I could find.

Oh, and by the way, if Twitter is not a good place to share story ideas, it’s also not a very good place to share writing advice either.

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31. iCarly But Everyone is Reuben

While I'm in the slow process of finishing up my Google Translated SB spin-off, there was one more thing I wanted to dabble in as an off-series thing before I end it. Some ideas that came to mind were putting a Nostalgia Critic or AVGN script through the translator, but I decided it would be best that I'd take a less old-fashioned route and go for the idea of twisting an iCarly episode through GT. But why though? Well, I have one sole reason for that, to be honest. There is one particular character from one particular episode who speaks proper English but is incomprehensible to everyone except his friend Gibby, and that character, of course, is Reuben from iWin a Date. I thought it would be interesting to experiment and see if the rest of the characters would talk in a similar fashion to him and if Reuben's dialogue would either come off as normal or even weirder in comparison. So what were the results? I'm going to leave that answer up to you.


ghosts every day (iWin a Date)


Carly Deca (Bosnian detected word for 'Children) -: Really good ...

Nsi: Block this site

Carly Deca -: ... We all painted in ten minutes

Nsi: ICarly viewers then vote online to see which picture is best.

Carly Deca -: Think about what we need to do now

Nsi: He is our little friend ...

Carly Sam: Gibby!

Carly Deca -: Gibby, are you ready?

jeep ndu: Of course it happens

DG Freddie: Eleven seconds and ... yes!

Carly Deca -: Don't try to move

Nsi: shut up

DG Freddie: five seconds

jeep ndu: beautiful grass

DG Freddie: Time!

Carly Deca -: Well, my picture

Nsi: Who is Freddy?

Carly Deca -: No, it's fun

Nsi: Read on

Carly Deca -: Now look at Sami's picture

.../ Yes, but BT is not mine either

Nsi: These are muscles

Carly Deca -: Yes, Sam is dreaming

Nsi: Well, see you again at iCarlys

Carly Deca -: Until reunification! Hello

Nsi: See you soon!

DG Freddie: We are ready

Carly Deca -: Hey, you have to clean the paint first. You want to damage your shirt

jeep ndu: Who takes care of my shirt? Who cares? You are not!

DG Freddie: What problems do you have?

jeep ndu: I don't want to talk about it

Nsi: Who has been channeling since then? I know I did

Carly Deca -: Gibby, seriously, what's going on?

jeep ndu: Shannon Mitchell, right?

Carly Deca -: And Shannon?

Nsi: What's wrong?

jeep ndu: I want you to love me, but I feel uncomfortable every time I try to talk to her. Why would that be good? I am going home

Carly Deca -: Gibby -

jeep ndu: I have no problem talking about it

Carly Deca -: Please, poor boy. It can be dangerous to renew your love for someone you don't love.

.../ sorry


Nsi: Ah, here it is

Carly Deca -: Hello Gibby!

jeep ndu: Since then?

Carly Deca -: We had a great time meeting Shannon

jeep ndu: My choice?

Nsi: Then we have an iCarlys game called "I Won Today".

jeep ndu: "Win today"?

Carly Deca -: Yes, but BT is not mine either

Nsi: But we're going to make Shannon one of her enemies, so ... who's your girlfriend, why does she think she's making me happy?

jeep ndu: Oh, Robin

Robin cried: I'm sorry to hear you were born on a plane a month later

Nsi: Yes, but BT is not mine either

Carly Deca -: Wait, I think I appreciate you

Nsi: thanks

Robin cried: Hey, just because I'm not scared doesn't mean I've lost my bingo

jeep ndu: This is very real!


wig: No, Stephanie, I don't think we should go out. Well, I didn't say I was tired last night. Just ... Stephanie ... Stephanie Steve - Because I don't like you!

Carly Deca -: So I think yesterday’s work with the blind was a success

wig: It relates to dinner

Carly Deca -: No unicorns

wig: Try to say that I want to be alone for the rest of my life. My name is Forrest Spencer.

Carly Deca -: Do you know where to find adult sites like Whynotdateme.com?

wig: It's very good

Carly Deca -: You can watch this person's video the day before you leave

wig: Yes, but these sites are also ...

.../ Hot reception? Stephanie Stephanie ... No, I don't want to talk to Gandhi because it's not real!

.../ Is this page back?


Nsi: Hello, Shannon

Shannon: Hello

Celine's death: Hello

Nsi: Hey, will you call iCarly next time?

Shannon. Celine and Julia: Of course! Alas! God forbid!

Celine's death: What are we going to do then?

Nsi: Let's say someone else wants to talk to an adult

Shannon: Freddy?

Nsi: Instead of playing, I call him Wonder Man.

Shannon: I think Freddie is beautiful and talented

Nsi: Oh, how crazy was your breakfast?

Robin cried: This is my football

Nsi: And talk about breastfeeding!


wig: Hi, my name is Spencer T. Hi, I have never used an online dating service, but I was told on Whynotdateme.com. Why can't we meet? I love people

Carly Deca -: What are you doing now?

wig: Make a video for Whynotdateme.com

Carly Deca -: give me a remote control

wig: Whatever happens

Carly Deca -: You don't have to rest

wig: I didn't see ...

Carly Deca -: The shirt should have buttons, these buttons should be pressed, the buttons you want on your hair.

.../ What should you wear with your hair?

wig: chicken fat

Carly Deca -: Alas! Chukwu (Haitian Creole detected word for 'God') Chukwu


.../ Gibby, you're ready to play, will I win today?

jeep ndu: Does Shannon Really Exist?

Nsi: from that door

jeep ndu: man, it's hard

Carly Deca -: Remember that all your votes will be recorded electronically

jeep ndu: My choice?

Carly Deca -: Secrets of who you are

jeep ndu: So how do I know who Shannon is?

Nsi: Increase the number of girls

Carly Deca -: You can't tell them! Let's make the game a fair reality.

jeep ndu: But what if I didn't choose Shannon?

Nsi: He had to listen to three girls, one girl, another girl, and three girls.

jeep ndu: But how do I know who Shannon is?

Carly Deca -: If you really want to communicate with Shannon, you have to choose between the two.

Nsi: All you have to do is

Carly Sam: Stay calm!

Nsi: ... vill (Swedish detected word for 'wants')

jeep ndu: we do it

DG Freddie: Hey, you'd rather come here

Carly Sam: I'll be back

Carly Deca -: What or what? Since then?

Shannon: Mom, Celine and Julia are coming

Nsi: What or what?

Carly Deca -: Why didn't they come?

Shannon: Cowboys buy tickets to explore the ice

Carly Deca -: Why were they sitting on the ice when it was a popular TV show?

DG Freddie: Comrades, we have seven minutes to learn to play a game I won in one day, in addition to three or four.

Shannon: Freddie, you're very good at math

Carly Deca -: Let's just say the game went well

DG Freddie: sorry

wig: Walk one, two, three, four

DG Freddie: Hi, my name is Freddie and tonight we are playing a new iCarly Special game called "Win The Day."

.../ Well, at least we didn't. Remember that our competitors are silent at the moment, so hey, they don't know the secret date.

jeep ndu: Hello Freddie, it's nice for me here

DG Freddie: We now have three daughters. Remember his hidden voice. Hello, we are the first

Carly Deca -: Hello Freddie, I'm glad to meet you

DG Freddie: The second number is a woman

Shannon: Hello Freddy

DG Freddie: Let's take the third issue

Nsi: Hello Fredard (Hindi detected word for 'friend'), how are you?

DG Freddie: In addition, the three girls had our deepest encounters. Whichever woman you choose, Chezek (Arabic detected word for 'Cheese') eats in two shops.

jeep ndu: Wicked!

DG Freddie: Now listen carefully to the parable's answer, the question, the girl's answer, and then the girl's choice depends on you. Really good!

jeep ndu: Only the first girl

Carly Deca -: Yes?

jeep ndu: What is your favorite music?

Carly Deca -: What do you like most?

jeep ndu: I think this is the queue

Carly Deca -: Oh, I love rap music. Yes, and BT is not for me. It looks like BT, not me

jeep ndu: another girl

Shannon: Oh, let's just say I love rock'n'roll or pop

jeep ndu: Hello

Shannon: New

jeep ndu: your third wife

DG Freddie: Of course not for women.

Nsi: I love cold lenses

DG Freddie: That's good - it's a secret. You have time for the last question

jeep ndu: New Woman: If I get married one day, how do you wake me up in the morning?

Shannon: Yes, but BT is not mine either

jeep ndu: beautiful! How did the first girl wake me up?

Carly Deca -: I told Harry to get up and go to work!

DG Freddie: Well, at least I didn't go down without explaining myself first. What is your favorite day at the cheese store? It's time to dump her and move on

jeep ndu: Hey ... ah ... me ... back ... first lady!

Carly Deca -: Yes thanks What or what !? what or what !? what or what !?


.../ Why did you choose me?

Nsi: You'd rather have Shannon

jeep ndu: I didn’t know Carrie Freddie was always the first Shannon woman he loved.

DG Freddie: No, you don't have to worry about loving someone

Carly Deca -: It never happened

DG Freddie: I know what's going on

jeep ndu: I'm sorry, I ask for everything and calm down. don't call me

Carly Deca -: It will be a fun, weird cheesecake for you and me ...


.../ Hey, did you let me go to school?

wig: Sure, but I ... I'll see you

Carly Deca -: What or what?

wig: I made a new video on Whynotdateme.com. You know, salt, etc, right?

Carly Deca -: Let's see

wig: Hi, this is Spencer

Carly Deca -: What does baseball say?

wig: "It simply came to our notice then

.../ If you are looking for fun and creative people, turn right on your way to happiness. Why not plant first? My email Write, download, send

Carly Deca -: You cannot email this girl right now. go find your wife

wig: Well, I made a new video

Carly Deca -: What has been different about your football game since then?

wig: It’s worth something and it should end here

Carly Deca -: Did you kill our fish?

wig: Yes

.../ I think he wanted to die

Carly Deca -: This fish has high hopes and dreams


jeep ndu: Hi, Carly, I'm going to the cheese shop tonight until you want to find me.

Carly Deca -: I want to go, we will close. "I was with you at the table ... for three hours ... or ...

Robin cried: Hello, how is Boomerang Mobile?

jeep ndu: She wants to know what you want in two days, Sam and you

Carly Deca -: Yes! of Sam. Today is the second day. Yes Sam is happy

jeep ndu: We do it. Come on, let's see

Robin cried: Say I'm ready to put on my sneakers at the Sami Monkey Show

jeep ndu: Wow!

DG Freddie: These are love letters

Carly Deca -: Ah, wait what I like

DG Freddie: Try it while you walk

Carly Deca -: Please don't make a face

DG Freddie: Does that mean Shannon doesn't want to talk to her?

Carly Deca -: Ah ... Maybe I talked to Shannon

DG Freddie: My choice? I think you still want to contact Gibbyn

Carly Deca -: I was at a meeting between Sam Reuben and Gibeon tonight

DG Freddie: Sam and Robin?

Carly Deca -: It’s a long story, but we invite Shannon to love metaphysics

DG Freddie: Better if he tries to scatter me

Carly Deca -: Do this three times tonight

Nsi: What three days?

DG Freddie: Carly, Gibby, Shannon, me, you and Rubel (Hungarian detected word for 'Ruble')

Nsi: I mean Robin Biat (Turkish detected word for 'allegiance') ?!

DG Freddie: No, no, no, not me!

Carly Deca -: Number!

DG Freddie: Get out of here! Get out of here! Out! Fence, fence, fence, fence!

Carly Deca -: Yes! I connected you with Robin!

Nsi: why-

Carly Deca -: He wants to go with you, but I don't want to be alone with my metaphysics for three hours!

Nsi: Not exactly

Carly Deca -: But is that something you want to know?

Nsi: My choice?

Carly Deca -: When your mom got together, I helped her make a fish cream and I found a healthy chicken.

Nsi: You are a good friend


Carly Deca -: You are not

Nsi: I promise

wig: Hello

Carly Deca -: Hello, what are you doing?

wig: Oh, I made a new video for Whynotdateme.com

Nsi: My mother blocked this site

Carly Deca -: So let’s watch your new video

wig: We do it. I try simple and sensitive. Let's see

Nsi: .../ Do you only eat whole grains?

wig: from each other

Carly Deca -: How long will it take?

wig: About nine minutes

Carly Deca -: Feet

wig: I know I can't think of anything better! You can take a shower

Nsi: My choice?

wig: I always have a good idea when I get wet

Carly Deca -: Let's do it, we're organizing tonight. We get it

Nsi: Well, Shannon loves Freddy, so let's just say she looks like Gibby Freddy.

Carly Deca -: The speed must not be the same

Nsi: Yes, but BT is not mine either

Carly Deca -: you are right


DG Freddie: Some of them are the best salads in human history

Carly Deca -: I know this is happening, I'm very happy and I'm not brushing my teeth

Nsi: I'm very tired

Robin cried: Unfortunately, dogs walk faster than climbing trees

jeep ndu: He is right!

Nsi: Something !?

Shannon: So, Freddy, how do you know about a computer?

DG Freddie: But really, I ...

.../ And ... Gibby taught me, aren't you at the gym?

jeep ndu: Ah, wait what I like. Yes I have.

Shannon: Really? I didn’t know they were on the computer. What do you have?

jeep ndu: Ah, wait what I like

Carly Deca -: Sure, it’s worse than necessary, it takes time and resources, but it doesn’t make money.

Shannon: I think Freddie is a wonderful name

Nsi: Zebra's other name is Freddie

Shannon: Really?

jeep ndu: It was all about Freddie

Shannon: How wonderful

jeep ndu: Cornelius

DG Freddie: That's what we do. Who Can Eat a Good Cheesecake?

Carly Deca -: Shouldn't the "my box is better than mine" rule apply?

Robin cried: I knew it had to be a combination of kangaroos. Do I know what I want?

Nsi: No, Robin, I don't know what to say. Almost everyone knows what you are talking about. Do I know what I want?

Carly Deca -: Well, let's calm down

Robin cried: Yes, but BT is not mine either

Nsi: Yes! This is very real! Do You Know the Truth? I sit here with all the beers, including Ischema Australian

Robin cried: Ah, I don't think he told me!

Carly Deca -: what did you say?

Nsi: I don’t know, but I’m glad it goes well with whiskey

DG Freddie: What's so great about this cheesecake?

Shannon: Txizek (Basque detecte word for 'chicks') is my favorite

Carly Deca -: Jeep makes cheesecake

jeep ndu: Not me!

Carly Deca -: Well, someone does

Shannon: I'm confused

Nsi: Don’t, I love Gibbs, I love you, don’t let go

Shannon: What or what?

jeep ndu: Look, Shannon, I love you so much, don't you? But I know you love her just like Freddie, so I tried to imitate your love.

Nsi: Hi, maybe it still works

jeep ndu: I don't want to work Listen I don't like Freddy I don't know technology I didn't have a smile when small Say like the sun Do you know what that means?

Carly Deca -: What does it mean to be a spiritual person?

jeep ndu: I mean, I love to dance ... take off your shirt! Turn on the music!

.../ That's a good catch! Am I ... where is Shannon?

Carly Deca -: I left the restaurant

jeep ndu: oo chimoo

Nsi: Don’t worry about GB

DG Freddie: Shannon is not very sexy

Carly Deca -: Yes, you can find a good wife

jeep ndu: Where is he

Girl in the restaurant: Why don't you see it here? I love your work so much, promote your music!


wig: .../ That is not true

Carly Deca -: That's not true?

wig: Do you know my nine minute lunch video? You are a child

Carly Deca -: MOE

wig: Yes, I sent it to Whynotdateme.com and who actually got the nine answers?

Carly Deca -: Well, you have nine days to travel

wig: So that's not it. Four women in prison.

Carly Deca -: de on de on

wig: The three women were released from prison.

Carly Deca -: Interest rates are low

wig: Both are psychologists who think they can help me

Carly Deca -: Thank you for what you say

wig: Or some pretty new ones

Carly Deca -: He is a man

wig: oo chimoo


Google Translate setupDanish-Amharic-Norwegian-Italian-Sinhala-Arabic-Hindi-Odia-Bosnian-Odia-German-Igbo-Bulgarian-Basque-Estonian-Haitian Creole

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32. Indiana Jones and the Shrine of the Silver Monkey

This was just a story that I wrote purely out of boredom, (and to potentially bring me out of my writer's slump) in 6-7 hours after one day of goofing around on DALL-E mini (a website that creates 9 AI-generated images based on what you type), and as you can tell, this story just wrote itself after I tried generating images for "Indiana Jones on the Legends of the Hidden Temple trying to assemble the shrine of the silver monkey," which ended up giving me a free writing prompt. To add to the whole AI-generated tone of this story, I processed this story through an AI-writing program called DeepStory. Any text written by the AI is bolded while my own written text is unbolded, (so if you're reading this Jjs, and you need to know what bodies of text to count towards my Festival word count, take all this into account).


Indiana Jones and the Shrine of the Silver Monkey

The room was dark, at first, with just the moon and the shadows of the two women.  Then, each element of the room was reinforced with wine, cigarette smoke, and the voices of Indy. It was another long, arduous day of pursuing the Nazis when Indiana Jones stumbled across a hidden temple while out in the wilds. The signpost read 'Olmec's Temple.'

Indiana Jones, still followed by Nazis, walks up to the temple and enters. Camera moves through the various rooms of the temple.  When the Nazis tried to enter the temple, the Olmecs moved out of the way and closed the gates. Indiana Jones has heard stories about a treasure named 'the Jewel-Encrusted Banana of Kingston Kongregatus," and so he thought at this very moment of time, and given the current circumstances he's found himself in, that he'd search around the temple and look for said treasure. One of the Olmecs turns around, revealing an Olmec Priest standing in the doorway with a stick that is stuck in the temple's center.  Indiana Jones steps back, but the Priest doesn't relent.  Instead, the Priest began to pursue the archaeologist adventurer. It was one of Olmec's temple guards. Cornered now, Indy reached for inside his satchel when he took out one of the treasures that he recovered from one of his previous adventures that he recognized as belonging to this temple - a small pendant. The Olmec Priest left Indy Jones alone after he gave up the pendant. Indiana continued on his quest as usual.

When a shot was fired from a rifle into the temple walls, the Priest rushed Indiana and had him dead to rights.  The Priest quickly stepped out of the temple, and called for the remaining Olmecs to run away. Once the firing has stopped, so did the disturbance engulfing the atmosphere of the temple. Indy took out his whip, swinging it straight across his line of trajectory to ward off any suspecting intruders. There were none, however, but what appeared in front of Indiana Jones now was something that he had feared most: snakes.

He quickly found the snake as it moved towards him. Indiana Jones confused at this revelation, began to laugh with a smile that, like old times, got him killed with laughter. The laughter ceased when he noticed something peculiar about the snake's skin. It showed a streak of silver, a color in which Indy had never recognized in snakes before. Wanting to leave the nesting grounds of these venomous reptiles, Indiana Jones trudged on forward through Olmec's temple. Without a map or any means of a navigational source in his utility, Indiana Jones wandered aimlessly around the temple before the stumbled across something that caught his eye: The shrine of the silver monkey, as it was written in ancient typography. "This must be where the treasure is confined," he thought.

As Indy stepped aside, a stone wall behind him seemed to explode. A door that seemed like a piece of ancient time stood in his way.  This door had not yet been illuminated with the mid-day sun. Ignoring this brief disturbance, Indy stepped inside the main entrance as it was straight ahead. It was then that he saw the monkey statue - three pieces, all of them unattached. "I have to assemble all three pieces of the monkey statue," Indiana Jones said to himself.

He took a few steps back and now saw a long corridor - with a piece of stone statues blocking the way. This wall went all the way to the end of the corridor where he once again bumped into the stone wall, except this one exploded. "I've had enough of all these exploding stone walls!" Indiana Jones spoke. As he expected, no response echoed from inside the confines of the shrine. Indy took out his whip and hurled it towards an entanglement of vines. With his whip wrapped around the vines, Indy swung across the corridor and saw himself centered in front of the disassembled silver monkey statue.

It was so big that it made the corridor seem tiny. "I'm gonna hafta put the monkey back together!"  Indiana Jones cried.  With as much ease as he could muster, he assembled the three pieces of the silver monkey. Indy stood as he waited for something to occur, good or bad. While watching over the silver monkey statue, a clock of stone was formed within one of the walls. It read "3:00" and while the numbers have yet moved, worry was still building up inside of Indiana Jones. He kept his composure while he waited for something else to happen, and what happened took him by surprise.

What surmised to Indy was the voice of Olmec echoing all across the temple uttered, "You could start by exiting the shrine of the silver monkey by going through the barracuda-infested moat. Head south from the shrine where you'll then go into the Pit of Despair. Find the exit from there and you'll be able to enter the Observatory whilst being observed by a group of iguanas. You must solve the puzzle that shall open a passageway that will take you up into the Troubled Bridge. Cross it without taking notice of a certain jaguar. Continue north and you'll find yourself inside the Dark Forest, where you'll be under the watchful eye of a group of chittering monkeys. Find the key hidden inside the hollows of one of the trees, but one wrong move will summon the spirit of a temple guard. The next room you will be led to is the Dungeon, where you'll find 'Jewel-Encrusted Banana of Kingston Kongregatus.' The next room you'll wind up in will be the Quicksand Bog, where you'll find a group of parrots circling about. Finally, after making it through that room, you'll make your way into the Room of the Secret Password. Shout out loud the right password to the door and you'll be able to return to the starting point. But be careful of the snakes that lurk inside the room." Just the mention of snakes was enough to make Indy's heart run out of anxiety. "Once you clear the last room, you'll now run down the stairway and race through the gates before the temple closes you in The choices are yours and yours alone. However, the only way to make it out of the temple is to retrieve the 'Jewel-Encrusted Banana of Kingston Kongregatus.' With the treasure in your hands, the gates will open back up and the temple guards will vanish. Make it through the exit in three minutes and you'll be rewarded. Run out of time and you'll suffer a fate worse than death."

The sole thing on Indy's mind now was to escape. Despite being under the pressure of finding the artifact and leaving unscathed within the limit of three minutes, he was compelled to. Suddenly, something else occurred within the shrine. Oh no, the moment he dreaded when the worst was just about to come his way, shit had hit the fan once again. On the wall adjacent to the stone clock was the glowing face of what appeared to have the appearance of a silver monkey phased through and looked at Indiana Jones. The spirit of the silver monkey then said to him, "You need to get out of here before there are too many devils waiting to strike." Indy was flabbergasted. "That is, unless, you're so willing to bestow me your body and combine us into the greatest force of protection against anyone who dares take the 'Jewel-Encrusted Banana of Kingston Kongregatus."

Indiana Jones was still unsure of how to respond to this celestial being, but he then took up the confidence to say to the silver monkey spirit, "Silver Monkey." I will die! Just the two of us. Perhaps, after this love confession, we could combine our power and, as a pair, really make sure that those and the rest of them who were not faithful to the shrine are punished. These, of course, were the words Indy had only said in his head, contemplating a way out of his current situation with the silver monkey spirit. He continued saying to the spirit, “There's no question about it now. You're the greatest of the immortals. You're a god among men. You're a noble warrior who's fought your way for justice, fairness and equality. So my gratitude is owed to you. Unfortunately, you are not human, and therefore, I have zero interest in your offer. If you'd be so humble and kind, you let me out of this temple."

The silver monkey spirit responded, "i make the rules here, as does Olmec. It won't work that way. Try and escape now if you must, i doubt you will make it out. Within the next three minutes, unless you manage to get out of this dominion, you are my treasure." The timer on the stone clock started counting down now, much to Indy's despair. Before Indiana Jones started to bolt from the shrine, the silver monkey spirit concluded, "This is where your life ends, Dr. Henry Walton Jr., at least for the moment."  The door then opened and two immortals stepped out.  They were the two main mastiffs of Sererar, Aztaman and Kuato Man of the Moon.  You know these death leviers mean serious business. With no more time waste, Indy warded off the mastiffs with his whip and started making his way out of the corridor.

However, the floor of the corridor crumbled underneath Indiana Jones's feet as he forced to hang mid-air from the ceiling vines as the room revealed the barracuda-infested moat. Another peculiarity that Indiana Jones noticed was the blue-colored fish scales that these barracudas possessed. He swung across the moat until he reached the floor between the exit from the shrine and the infested waters. He ran out of the shrine and stumbled into the Pit of Despair. He pulled himself to the ground, only to be grabbed by five death leviers who immediately dove in for the kill.  Upon hearing the screams of being tugged to the surface, the death levy then kneeled to take Indy down for the kill. Indy grabbed onto a long vine and kicked his legs with enough force to get the mastiff to release its grip on the archaeological explorer. The mastiff then fell to its death while the others stopped dead in their tracks as Indy passed the long gap between them and the pit.

Indiana Jones now made his way towards the Observatory. He was greeted by an ancient sorceress who had appeared behind him and she said, "Indiana, I can tell you have the artifact, but are you ready for what is about to happen?" Indy, being empty-handed of the treasure he sought, could tell that this sorceress was an illusion, or rather one of the temple guards. He rummaged through his satchel to see if he had another of the pendants that the Olmec Priest had a fondness towards. He only had one left and presented it to the sorceress before she vanished.

Still trying to figure out his way through the Observatory room, he had forgotten about the iguanas and so his eyes met with a group of them, all of which had orange-colored skin. The iguanas immediately took interest in his well-being.  They crawled up his body to make sure he was okay, alive. He smiled to them and said, "Well, thank you guys. You don't know how close you came to getting me, but I must go." These weren't the words that the reptiles wanted to hear, however. Their eyes all glowed the same bright red as the Olmec head statue and prepared to gang up on the adventurer. "Shit, shit, shit!" Indiana Jones said in a panicked tone and rushed his way towards solving the puzzle and now entering the Troubled Bridge.

The time that Indy had now to escape the temple was now cut down in half, so he had to hurry. Beside the Troubled Bridge, Indy met face to face with another exotically-colored animal, this time being a jaguar, as Olmec described, and it was colored red. "Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Indiana Jones said under his breath. As the two beings saw each other eye to eye, Indiana Jones had the presence of the other carnivore grab his arm and punch the being, who was being made of hardened skin before his "self", couldn't help itself.  In a self-inflicted martial arts-type of move, Indy Jones then spun the jaguar around like Bruce Lee. Lifting the animal over his shoulders, he threw it down from the bridge, and so the adventurer continued forth into the Dark Forest.

The Dark Forest was exactly as it was described, dark. Cautious of the warnings given to him by Olmec, Indiana Jones quietly darted through the forest to find the key to the next room. As soon as he found it, he was about to be confronted by Sererar, Aztaman, and Kuato Man of the Moon. He stopped in his tracks upon seeing the hideous shadow-like presence that the three giants cast. The three immortals ran off to alert. The main doors of Sererar were the only way out of the temple. Now, when Indy Jones tried to make his quick escape from the forest, he was ambushed by a group of green-colored monkeys. They caught the alligator from down the mountain and threw it against the stone wall to keep him at bay. Indy didn't have time to spare for a bunch of green monkeys, let alone one alligator, so he hurriedly unlocked the passage to the next room. To his satisfaction, it was the Dungeon, where the 'Jewel-Encrusted Banana of Kingston Kongregatus' was settled in. Now he just has to find it so that the temple guards would disappear and Sererar's doors could open up.

Indiana Jones and the rest of his search party crept through the forest in safety when suddenly, the ground started to shake! Then a huge hail of dirt and stones struck the ground just a few feet in front of them. Then a thunderous sound echoed throughout the Dungeon. That brief tremor had warned Indiana Jones that the temple is going to close in on him if he doesn't make it out on time. He spotted the 'Jewel-Encrusted Banana of Kingston Kongregatus' and ran towards it. Suddenly, as Indy Jones made his final dash towards his prize, a gigantic rock appeared out of nowhere and tried to stop him.  Indy Jones dispatched of the creature with a few lucky thrusts. Indiana Jones spoke, "It’d be one of those days" and make his way into the next room as the boulder blocked the way back. No matter, the only way is out, he thought, while forty seconds remained for him to escape the temple. Now that Sererar’s door remained open for him to pass through, once he reached it, Indy gave himself some renewed confidence.

Indiana Jones had now entered the Quicksand Bog and the boulder was starting to turn to ice. Sermanar, Aztaman, and Kuato Man of the Moon had gone to the far-away point of the pixilated landscape to secure their belongings. Now it was time to tread through the quicksand as quickly as the archaeologist adventurer could manage. From up above, he saw a group of parrots with purple-coated feathers squawking and flying around in a circle. The parrots chanted, "The treasure's in here!  The treasure's in here!  The treasure's in here! ," causing the mounds of sand below to billow upwards. A moment later, Indiana Jones stepped into the water and was engulfed in a mudslide as a result of the combination of both materials. He was already past the Quicksand Bog and entered one of the remaining obstacles: the Room of the Secret Password.

Indiana Jones, of course, wasn't so sure of what the password could be to open the door back to the place he entered the temple from. He had thirty seconds left to escape the temple, so it was a life or death situation he was facing. In his attempts at guessing the password, Indiana Jones shouted out loud to the door what he presumed could be the password, "Hey, it's me, I've been stuck here forever, aren't I?" It didn't work. To make matters worse, the purple parrots from before had escaped the Quicksand Bog and they were now circling above his head. Indy simultaneously tried to swat them away while trying to guess another password, in which he guessed, "Do you know the date today?" As he had guessed wrong, they turned their attention back on him, flapping their wings and shouting, "No! It's the last day of the Golden Age of Chiron!" Because of the pressure Indy was under, he desperately shouted out to the door, "Let me out! Let me out!" The purple parrots continued with their mocking and mimicked "Let me out! Let me out!" However, the talkative birds then uttered, "Have you met Chiron?" What a name!  It really has a connection with the Amazon, when the Amazon discovers a transatlantic letter she receives has a surprising meaning for him.  Immediately, the purple birds started the countdown. There was no time to be pondering about Chiron now, Indiana Jones thought. "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!"  And with that, they screamed, "Release the spring ball!" There was nothing he could do but give in to the demon birds' wishes, so Indiana Jones squatted until he heard something that he didn't expect. The door opened up for him, as "Release the spring ball" turned out to be the password. Judging by the parrots counting down prematurely, Indiana Jones could fathom that he still had time to exit the temple with the treasure intact. He left the room, but not before flipping the bird to the purple birds and leaving them alone.

Looking at the stone clock, Indy saw that he had no more than five seconds left to make it past the gate. He dashed his way towards the exit, but to his misfortune, the three minutes had run out before he could reach the exit, with the light in the tunnel being closed up right in front of Indiana Jones. He had no choice but to scream, especially as the silver snakes came to crowd the room. Then, Sererar, Aztaman, and Kuato Man of the Moon appeared behind Indy and they pinned him against one of the walls of the temple. The spirit of the silver monkey appeared once more, its face phasing through the wall far north from Indy, who could now only watch as they laughed before he witnessed his fate through a grueling transformation process. Indiana Jones saw as he was slowly going through the transformation that the blue monkeys from the island of Havana had undergone. When the spell ended, the monkey's face, now it had two heads, which one Indy Jones picked up. The One with the good side was possessed by the silver monkey spirit. The immense power invested in the spirit allowed for it to spread through Indiana Jones. The two faces merged as he and the spirit now became one with each other and with the wall. While Indy's fedora stayed on top of his head, his limbs and torso had vanished while his face merged with that of the silver monkey.

Taking a glimpse of this stone-headed Lovecraftian horror right in front of them, one of the Olmec entities, Aztaman, commented, "How funny you look. Not to say that I have any disrespect towards you, for you are our honorable silver monkey." Sererar chimed in with, "What a piece of work! We should take you back to our island to be displayed in our museum of the strange and odd." Indy heard them but he was all too aware that there was a great light over his head, the bridge that enclosed the top of Olmec's temple opened up to reveal an alien spacecraft overhead, waiting to transport what formerly resembled Indiana Jones to the desired location spot. Kuato Man of the Moon finished by saying, "Any good news on your progress? This seems to be the end of the road. By now you will be finding a doorway to another place of where your soul has gone. Our world, our fore fathers, the gods, and our ancestors have all turned to dust, all of the past forgotten. Finally, our freedom is upon us.  Now is the time for our revenge on you, Jonesy boy." Kuato Man of the Moon then teleported Indy away before the job could be completed in the silver monkey spirit's behalf.

The silver Indiana Jones monkey stone head was transported to the very island that Sererar had brought up. The new Indiana Jones was unable to scream, muffle, or revolt, since the body was all made up of stone, and now that the silver monkey spirit's mind had consolidated with his as well. Kuato Man of the Moon says, "I think that now is the perfect time for you to move on, Jonesy boy." Indiana Jones began to make a muffled sound as he listened to his surroundings, which inside was a vision of a nightmare in full swing. Suddenly, the alien spaceship, with Sererar and Aztaman inside it, came back to get Kuato Man of the Moon. For what they intend to do next, the transmuted Indiana Jones was unable to think an answer to. "Let me have some fun, why don't ya? Fine, we'll go back and focus on our next objective, but the silver monkey won't be forgotten."

As it seemed for Indiana Jones, this was the end of his old life for him. On the upside of things, he didn't have to deal with snakes anymore. On the other hand, there was no more treasure hunting, no more spelunking into the unknown, no spouting out witty remarks in any form or way he'd so please, and no more stopping the Nazis. This was his fate that Olmec forewarned. He was no longer Indiana Jones, the treasure hunting archaeologist extraordinaire. He had now become monkey, defender of the silver monkey shrine. And so, his adventures have come to a tragic, abrupt end.

Indiana Jones, suffering from a serious case of hangover, eventually comes to the cave that must once have been his ancestral home.  Indiana Jones stops, inside the cave, looking at the starry sky. He recovers a day later and returns home to New Jersey and looks up a story titled "Indiana Jones and the Shrine of the Silver Monkey," and he thought to himself "Who would write this fever dream-induced crap anyway?" And then, randomly, he finds a newspaper in a public place.  It's a New York tabloid entitled "Grab Our Pants And Strap on Your Own Ass."  Indiana Jones reads the story and gets his heart pounding.


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33. The World Ends with Dante

So, here's something that I'm sure you folks weren't expecting from me - a story based on the relatively niche 101 Dalmatian Street cartoon. Now, if you haven't seen me mentioning it on Discord by now, I have been giving not-so subtle hints that I've been really into this show lately, a and it's gotten to the point where I felt the need to write stories for this series (so expect more stories based on 101DS later on from me, just so I'd let you guys know), with this one in particular revolving around the hypothetical idea of showing some character development for one of the several characters of the dalmatian cast, Dante. I submitted this for the Octerrorfest writing contest not too long ago with the intent of posting the complete story, but because I couldn't finish it before the deadline, I am posting the finished version here instead. Even if I'm aware that this won't make anyone interested in one of my very niche favorites (Of course, Disney did axe this after one season), I do at least hope that this weird 10,000+ story that I've churned out is enjoyed by someone.


Two months have passed since the dognapping incident had occurred. With no hint of danger from the likes of Cruella in these passing months, the Dalmatians have now been able to ease their own fears of the De Vil woman more each day. This also meant that the pups have stopped experiencing recurring scary dreams pertaining to the night that traumatized them. While everything seemed to be returning to normalcy for the Dalmatian family, it was now late October and they already knew what that meant. Halloween is further away.

It was the time of year for the world’s population to dress up in costumes varying from terrifying creatures to familiar copyrighted characters to whatever they come up with for just one night. It was also the time of season for scares, pumpkins, and of course, chocolate – lots of chocolate, which was the very center of avoidance during said holiday that the Dalmatians have been making a vital note of. However, the perks of being in a Camden neighbourhood that’s populous with pets is the humans growing accustomed to letting them partake in the otherwise usually human activity of trick-or-treating by handing out treats and toys in place of candy.

The Dalmatian family pups have always been enthralled by the concept of trick-or-treating, so Dylan and Dolly have come prepared in the event of letting over ninety dalmatian pups roam the blocks of Camden Town for treats. They have already agreed to chaperone while Delilah and Doug had to work during the night, which they’ve done since the past few years. In a day that’s meant to be a fun and scary time, the Dalmatians have been hoping that it will be a safe and trauma-free leisure, but there was just one obstacle in the way of ensuring that it will be all fine and peachy – Dante.

“Tonight’s tale is lifted from the Camden Town mystery files…CASE NUMBER SIXTY-SIX!” Dante announced, holding a flashlight in his paws as it illuminated light on his face. “This story is called “The Black Dog of Camden.” Long ago, in the very streets of Camden, there lurked a creature with black fur, sharp teeth, razor claws, and GLOWING RED EYES! It sinks its teeth into any other dog that crosses its path. Those unfortunate enough to encounter it were either missing or dragged to the depths of the underworld, leaving behind only the collars on their necks while the ghostly canine preserved the bones of its victims. According to rumors, the black dog tends to haunt the cemeteries of London, waiting for its next target. Some say that its motive is to enact revenge on the humans that claimed its life for its fur. Others say that the black dog is a soul collector for Cerberus itself, making that a likely deduction that any chance encounter of the ghost dog is a possible omen for the END OF THE WORLD! …And that ends the tale of The Black Dog of Camden.” Dante’s somber tone shifted to a normal one when he then said, “So, how did I do?”

“Dante, you may have not noticed, like you do every time we give you a turn in telling the pups a bedtime story, but you were supposed to help them sleep,” Dylan pointed out.

All across the bedroom, Dante saw as the other dalmatian pups exchanged disoriented and concerned looks while others were shaking or whining from fear. He also saw as Dylan and Dolly have given him dirty looks to prove their point.

Almost every night, Dylan and/or Dolly would help get all the pups to sleep by telling them bedtime stories. Other times, they would give themselves a bit of a load off by letting someone else have a turn at this routine, to mixed results. Some of the dalmatians that were reliable for filling in for this job included Dawkins, whose method involved boring them to sleep by reading excerpts from astrophysics reference books or from machine operations manuals, then there was Deepak, whose selections mainly involved stories about cats. DJ was also reliable, though his method involved playing soothing music from his keyboard rather than reading a story. Other considerable options were Da Vinci, although her selections were art books, which were meant to be looked at than read to, and Delgado, who would read too fast, and in a similar fashion to the one human from those old Micro Machines commercials, making it a distraction from getting the pups to sleep.

Then there was Dante. What does he do? Because he doesn’t grasp the contrast between bedtime stories and ghost stories, every story he tells is of the latter kind, and often times they end up scaring the pups from sleeping. He was slightly younger than Dylan and Dolly, but he was at the age where he could start being a responsible sibling. Although Dylan and Dolly know full well that Dante is not reliable for this kind of chore, they still let them share stories so he doesn’t feel left out. Since it was the night before Halloween, however, the two top dogs conceded that it wasn’t the brightest idea to let Dante help the pups fall asleep for the night.

“Yeah, it especially doesn’t help that your story rings a few bells to…you know what,” Dolly remarked towards Dante.

“I’m just doing my part in making sure that we’re all prepared for…the unpredictable!” Dante said. “These stories can serve as a cautionary tale for what might happen for us next!”

The one dog in the Dalmatian family that has been behaving just about the same months after the incident was Dante. While he has already been known for his tendencies to predict the imminent end of the world, the traumatizing experience had only fueled Dante’s paranoia further, for he had almost seen his world ending right before his eyes before the glimmer of hope that saved the Dalmatians.

“Oh please, a ghost dog that collects the souls and bones of its victims, and only leaving behind their collars?” Dylan remarked. “I’ve heard lots of absurd urban legends from you Dante, but this one might just be the most absurd!”

“But what if the black dog is real?” Delgado asked.

“It’s not real! it’s just Dante being Dante!” Dolly said in a reassuring tone, trying to comfort the scared pups.

“I can confirm from a conductive logical reasoning that such a scenario would be scientifically impossible to occur,” Dawkins added.

“Dante, there are scarier things that we’ve dealt with,” Dolly continued. “What happened two months ago was distressing for all of us, we’d like to spend tomorrow without worrying about any of that. You know what tomorrow is, right?”

Of course, Halloween happened to be the favorite holiday of Dante. From his perspective, the concept of Halloween has always been one of life’s greatest enigmas to him. There was another thing that made it special to him, but today, he couldn’t wrap his head around why.

“Why wouldn’t I know what tomorrow is?” Dante responded. “It’s the one day in every year where every strange creature known to dog gathers for one night. Ghosts, werewolves, vampires, zombies, scarecrows, heffalumps, woozles, escaped clones with their faces melting!”

“Relax, Dante,” said Dylan. “We’ve gone over this several times before. They’re all just humans in costume.”

“And yet they appear for one night and they’re all gone the very next day,” Dante continued. “How does that happen? No one knows, and that makes the mystery all the more alluring.”

Dylan rolled his eyes and then replied, “Well, the pups enjoy trick-or-treating, so we are getting dressed up too again this year.”

“Yeah, and I know how much you all don’t want to miss out on those treats!” Dolly said towards the pups. “Don’t let that scary story bother you, so just get some good sleep for tomorrow.”

“I should also remind you all not to go nuts with the treats,” Dylan adds. “Mum and dad had arranged for us to have our teeth checked and cleaned by our in-house animal dentist next week.”

Most of the pups responded with a chorus of “Awww”s. Dawkins, on the other paw, reacted nervously upon mention of the dentist.

“And Dante, if you’re planning on tagging along with us, can we trust you to be on your best behavior by not doing a repeat of last year where you kept freaking out the humans? Can you do that for us?” Dylan asked.

“I was planning on spending the night sheltering myself here from the apocalypse while having myself a horror movie marathon,” Dante replied. “So I’ll need to borrow the TV for tomorrow.”

“All right, but it looks like we’ll have to make sure it doesn’t catch the prying eyes of the younger pups.” Dylan replied. “At least make sure not to put on Little Shop of Horrors. You know how tensed up Dawkins gets when it comes to the dentist.”

“Stop mentioning dentists!” Dawkins exclaimed as he held his lowered ears with both paws out of fear.

“It’ll be fine,” said Dolly. “I mean, don’t you use drills all the time when you and Dylan work on any new inventions?”

“Yes, but not the kind that go in people’s mouths! It’s one of the very few machines that I don’t like!” Dawkins responded. “Why do you think I’ve been trying to keep my teeth clean every day? So much drilling, so much drilling, so much drilling…!”

While Dawkins began shaking, Deepak approached him to try and calm his nerves by massaging his fur before escorting him to the bathroom to let the toothbrusher lessen his worries.

“Fear not, dear brother, let Guru Miaow guide you to the realm of good dental hygiene,” said Deepak.

“I think we’ve had enough worrying about the end of the world for one night,” Dylan finished. “You should be feeling better after getting some good sleep too, Dante.”

Dante conceded and made his sleeping arrangement while Dylan and Dolly calmed down the rest of the pups.

The next day, the family of dalmatians was making their preparations for the night. Once it was close to getting dark, the Dalmatians have gotten dressed in their respective costumes. Dolly is shown dressed as Vee from Owl House, Dizzy & Dee Dee dressed up as a nurse dog and a firedog respectively (calling to mind the respective jobs held by their parents), the Dimitris dressed up together in a three-headed hydra costume, Deepak dressed up as a black cat, Da Vinci dressed up as a Smeargle from the Pokemon franchise, DJ dressed up as Squarepusher (which was one of the very few costumes Dylan and Dawkins had to design for), Delgado dressed up as Optimus Prime, and baby Dorothy was dressed as the similarly-named Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz. While Triple D had spent their previous Halloweens in group costumes, they decided to make themselves individual costumes this year, with Dallas dressing up as Pink Diamond from Steven Universe, Destiny dressing up as Sailor Moon, and Déjà Vu dressing up as Scooby-Doo.

While some of the other dalmatians were getting ready, everyone except Dante was dressed up for the occasion. Dylan then showed himself in front of the others dressed as Poodlewolf.

In the usual grandiose voice he puts on for the character during his Poodlewolf board game sessions, Dylan said as he picked up Dorothy, placed her on his back, and nuzzled her, prompting for her to let out a giggle, “Let us come forth, pups! Poodlewolf is here to take you all trick-or-treating!”

Dolly wasn’t all that amused. “Bro, this is the third year in a row that you dressed up as Poodlewolf,” she remarked.

“Come on, Dolly, Deepak has dressed as a cat every year and I don’t see you complaining about that,” Dylan replied.

“Yes, but at least he goes as a different breed,” Dolly replied.

“She is right. This year I’ve chosen to go as a Bombay, which is recognized for being the most symbolic animal of Halloween,” said Deepak as his tail wagged in delight. “This is the one aspect of the holiday that I look forward to every year, where I can show my inner and an outer cat too!”

“Triple D made most of our costumes, so you got to at least give them credit for that,” Dylan continued towards Dolly.

“They were worth a lot of time and work, so it makes us happy to see you all rocking them,” said Dallas.

“All these costumes we’ve made are animal-friendly, which is what makes them even more special,” Destiny added.

“Reah- I mean, yep, we did a great job!” Déjà Vu said. “I can’t wait any longer to get myself a bunch of Scooby Snacks!”

“Yeah, just don’t oversell it, Déjà Vu,” Dallas remarked.

“That should be everyone, right?” Dolly asked as Dylan did his mandatory head count.

“That’s everyone except Dawkins and Diesel,” Dylan informed. “They both said that they’re making their costumes, so we’ll just to have to wait for them for a bit and- OH MY DOG, what is that!?”

What Dylan gazed upon that gave him a panic was what appeared to be a dog-sized replica of Megazord from the Power Rangers franchise.

“What do you think it is?” Dawkins’s slightly muffled voice spoke from the inside of the body of armor. “This is what I’m going as for the occasion.”

Dylan let out a deep sigh of relief and then said, “Oh, it’s just you, Dawkins.”

“Whoa, it looks like we forgot to tell him not to go too extra this year,” Dolly joked.

“Oh no! No, no, no! You are not going as that while trick-or-treating with us,” said Dylan. “You could step on some humans or even one of us if you’re not careful!”

“Oh kibbles!” Dawkins bemoaned, as the Megazord replication gave a dejected look before the dalmatian descended below the suit of armor to show himself, having turned off its functions. “I’ve gotten into the spirit of this holiday so that I could show the capabilities of dogs in the field of science and engineering. I was only going to participate in the Camden costume contest since trick-or-treating doesn’t suit me, and I don’t want to waste three weeks’ worth of work that I’ve put into making this replica of Megazord.”

“Come on bro, let him go out and have his own fun,” Dolly said towards Dylan before turning her eyes back to Dawkins. “You’ve made an awesome costume, and you deserve to have the residents of Camden see your genius.”

“Well, now that you put it that way, you can at least go to that contest in that,” Dylan acquiesced, “but you still need to be careful, and since we don’t really trust Dante to be home all by himself, you wouldn’t mind keeping him company while the rest of us are out trick-or-treating, right?”

“Of course I wouldn’t mind,” Dawkins replied.

“So that leaves Diesel,” said Dolly. “Where the heck is he anyway?”

Conveniently so, the dalmatians took notice of Diesel stumbling his way down the stairs while dressed in a black bed sheet with one too many holes cut into it.

“I am the black dog of Camden!” Diesel proclaimed as he then made ghost noises.

“Oh Diesel, don’t tell me Dante’s story last night got to your head,” said Dylan.

“Okay, I won’t.” Diesel replied.

“I’m worried about you not being able to see in that thing. We can’t have you bumping into anybody or getting lost from our group by accident.” Dylan replied. “Well, now that we’re all gathered here, I should point out first thing that I need you all to be on your best behavior, don’t interact with any of the human kids, and keep your voices low, even when you feel the need to say “Trick-or-treat!.” The humans can’t understand what we say anyway, but at least let out a gentle bark to say thanks when you get your treats.” The majority of the dalmatian pups responded with a chorus of “We promise.”

“Can I do some ghost hunting?” Diesel asked. “Let me at ‘em if you see any.”

“Just don’t get ahead of yourself and freak out any of the human kids that are also dressed as ghosts,” Dylan informed. “Let’s get this over with, now.”

As Dylan reached his paw towards the scanner to unlock the door, Dante interrupted him by saying in a panicked tone, “Stop, don’t open the door! You don’t know what could be waiting for us from the other side!”

“Like what?” Dolly questioned. “What are the odds that we’re going to see the black dog of Camden?”

“Or worse…the human that tried to kill us for our coats coming back for revenge!” Dante fretted.

“What I’m more concerned about is humans showing up at our door for candy and realizing that we don’t have a human in the house, which is why we put up very specific signs to lure them away,” said Dylan as the outside of the front door showed signs that read “STAY OUT!!!,” “NO CANDY HERE!!!,” “THAT’S RIGHT, KEEP WALKING,” “NOTHING TO SEE HERE,” and the typical “BEWARE OF DOGS.”

“But you guys heard what she said about how we haven’t seen the last of her,” said Dante. “What if she does come back tonight? If all these creatures known to human and dog can congregate on a night like this, there’s no doubt in my mind that this could be a sign of her return!”

“Look, Dante,” Dylan responded, “we know you’ve been right a few times before with your predictions, and we’ve been more than willing to listen to you because of that, but right now, this is not the time to deal with them. There’s no such thing as ghost dogs, and most importantly, there’s no way that we’re ever going to encounter that evil lady again!”

When Dylan opened up the door, they were met by something resembling a familiar entity. Seeing the hairstyle that they recognized belonging to Cruella, the Dalmatians (except for Diesel, who couldn’t see due to the sheet covering him), by instinct, screamed out of fear.

“Feeling terrified!” Dawkins exclaimed.

However, the horrified expressions from the dalmatians would then immediately become stern looks after they realize that it was just their corgi neighbor Clarissa playing a cruel joke on them with a wig.

“Trick-or-treat, ruff raff!” Clarissa said before letting out several laughs for the scare she had given.

Unfortunately for the Dalmatians, even after having developed somewhat of a change of heart after the dognapping incident and providing some help for letting Dylan and Dolly come to their family’s rescue on the cargo ship that night, Clarissa still remained her stuck-up and intolerant self.

“Never mind, it’s just Clarissa,” said Dylan in a vexed tone.

“Ugh, Clarissa,” Dolly growled. “You know, I get this is a holiday for playing tricks and I may be the one for pulling pranks, but that wasn’t very funny!”

“Yeah, what happened to us that one night is no laughing matter, we agreed on that!” Dylan retorted.

“I know, but I couldn’t just pass up the opportunity to see how much of a good scare that I could give you all and it satisfies one’s self to see the looks on your faces!” Clarissa responded. “It gives one much more of a laugh to see what kind of tacky costumes a bunch of dalmatians put together this year.” She then said, referring to Dolly’s Vee costume, “What are you supposed to be anyway?”

“I couldn’t think about what I should dress up as this year, so I let Triple D decide for me and they made me a costume of a character from that one show they’re into. They say I ‘sound just like her,’ even though I don’t really see it, but I still appreciate the thought they put into it, so I’ll have you know that Triple D have great sense in fashion, and our costumes are not as tacky your phony getup,” Dolly sneered.

“You should leave, Clarissa,” said Dylan. “We just want to enjoy ourselves for the night, and we certainly don’t want to keep dealing with your jokes.”

“Then one shall leave you ruff raff alone, but one shall continue to treasure this moment. I must say though that one does appreciate that we had the same idea of keeping a bunch of little brats away from one’s house. One can’t allow for the quality time Hugo has arranged for me to be ruined by some meddlesome dogs,” Clarissa finished as she then strutted back to her house.

“False alarm, Dante, you can stop hiding now,” Dylan called out, taking notice of his absence from the group.

Dante revealed himself from the dumbwaiter and reappeared with the other dalmatians. He then asks, “Is it safe to go out now?”

“I don’t sense any danger,” said Dolly. “Now let’s go out and get some treats, there’s no more time to waste!”

“Any of those treats could have razor blades inside of them or they could be laced with chocolate, so be sure to check each one!” Dante forewarned.

“Sure, we’ll believe in one of the oldest superstitions in the book,” Dolly remarked in a sarcastic tone.

“Um, Dolly, aren’t you too old to be trick-or-treating yourself?” Dylan asked, referring to the bag she had on her.

“We’re dogs, Dylan, how can we be too old for free treats?” Dolly replied.

Once as all the costumed dalmatians were out the door, Dawkins got himself back inside his own costume and, after some struggle getting his costume through the front door, escorted Dante as they took themselves to where the Camden Town costume contest was being held while the rest of the dalmatian pack scrambled the neighbourhoods for their trick-or-treating outing.

Two hours later, the Dalmatians, except for Dante and Dawkins, had returned home each with their basketfuls of treats, chew toys, and other goodies (while Deepak’s bag was filled with cat-related supplies), as they have managed to spend their night with very few complications.

“That turned out great! We got so much stuff,” said Dolly.

“I got tons of treats,” Dimitri 1 remarked.

“So have I,” said Dimitri 2.

“I got a rock!” Diesel said with delight.

“Thank goodness that went pretty smoothly,” said Dylan as he removed his costume alongside the others in a pile (Since Dorothy is still a baby, she was a bit too fussy to take hers off at the moment while Deepak opted to stay dressed as his ’outer cat’ a while longer). “Check your bags before you start snacking on your treats...”

“Who would put razor blades in our dog treats?” Dimitri 3 questioned.

“I meant if you find any pieces of chocolate candy,” Dylan clarified. “Put it in the ‘Bad candy’ bowl I set down here, and I’ll throw them out. And most importantly, do not eat any of it!”

“Well, I think it’s a good time for me to call it a night,” Dolly said with a yawn.

“Not yet, we still have to prepare our surprise for Dante,” Dylan informed.

“Ugh, why couldn’t we have done it earlier today?” Dolly complained.

“We want to make it very special this year for him, and since he hasn’t come back yet, we have time to get ourselves started with the plan I’ve arranged.”

At that convenient moment, the front door opened up to show that Dawkins and Dante have both just returned from their outing. Dawkins got himself out of his costume and set it beside the pile. He looked as tired as Dolly was.

“Welcome back Dante, welcome back Dawkins,” said Dylan.

“So, how did that whole costume contest thing go, did you win?” Dolly asked Dawkins.

“Second place,” Dawkins responded in a dry tone. “It didn’t go the way I thought it would. My creation still got recognition, and I’m at least satisfied with that.”

“We had to leave a little early because Dawkins got pretty upset after the judging concluded and it was freaking out the humans,” Dante clarified. “They were impressed with his costume, but it lost to a human kid dressed as a baking soda and vinegar volcano.”

“Megazord did not lose to a baking soda volcano!” Dawkins huffed with denial in his tone. “Of course, we could’ve gone back home earlier, but then Dante got sidetracked by a fortuneteller on the way.”

“I already told you, she’s a paw reader,” Dante corrected.

“Well, I hope you’re not too upset to help us out with this surprise we’ve been planning,” Dylan said to Dawkins.

“I am feeling fine now, but I’m calling it a night afterwards,” Dawkins responded.

“Wait a minute, what surprise?” Dante asked. “Is it the end of the world that the paw reader warned me about?”

“We can’t tell you, otherwise it won’t be a surprise at all,” said Dylan. “Besides, weren’t you going to focus on your little horror movie marathon?”

“Oh, yes, of course! You just go ahead and do what you’re going to do, but give me a holler if you see any sign of the world ending.”

While the dalmatian goth occupied himself with the TV in the living room, the other dogs got to work. After nearly an hour, Dante couldn’t help but eavesdrop.

“The nerve of Clarissa, scaring the pups like that on a day like this,” Dylan muttered.

“I know it was tasteless but that’s all over now,” Dolly replied.

“I’m still mad about it, though,” Dylan replied.

“I don’t know, Dylan, what will make this seem better in comparison? This does feel like a prank, so I’m not sure if Dante will appreciate this surprise rather than it will upset him…”

Though he couldn’t make out where the two top dogs were grouping, Dante heard the sound one of the doors opening and closing. The voices were muffled now to Dante, but he still tried to listen in.

“There’s no jokes attached to this, so I wouldn’t call it a prank, consider it more of a…theatrical display if you will. You do have a point, if we all feel like it’s gotten too intense for him, then we’ll use the quit word I’ve chosen – gobbledygook.”

“Yeah, next time, I’m choosing the signal word.”

“We’ll just see how Dante feels about what we’re setting up. We need to distract him for a while before we show him the real surprise we have for him.”

While Dante still wasn’t sure what they were conversing about, he returned to the living room and restrained his urges to warn the pups about the potential dangers that he was foretold from his paw reading, as his way to respect keeping the surprise a surprise. Ten minutes later, however, the unpredictable happened. The lights in the 101 Dalmatian Street home had all went out, and subsequently, the power. The window from behind Dante shone a white flash of light before being followed by the sound of thunder. It made the dalmatian goth jump, scrambling to find the flashlight that he had beside him in case of such an emergency. Flailing around the illuminated light, Dante saw nothing out of the ordinary. He hadn’t heard a voice coming from the other dalmatians, which concerned him.

“What’s going on?” Dante murmured. “Are you guys all okay? Where are you?”

Stepping out of the living room, Dante saw as fog was beginning to form all around the place, which he had also found to be unprecedented. When he approached near the steps of the home, Dante pointed his flashlight at an object standing by the front door that he otherwise would never think he’d encounter. It was the black dog of Camden. Sharp teeth sticking out from its muzzle, sharp claws, and glowing red eyes, just exactly like Dante described it in his telling of the tale.

Just the thought of seeing the mythological creature in the flesh at this time of year, at this time of day, in this very part of London that it’s said to haunt, and localized entirely inside the home of 101 Dalmatian Street had made Dante’s heart race with fear and yet also with excitement. Somehow, he and the paw reader he had met mere hours ago had predicted the unpredictable. Dante couldn’t contain himself and his tail began to wag from this realization.

“Huh, I was right…I was right!” Dante said with a sudden burst of joy. “It’s supposed to be an urban legend, and yet here it is, and it’s haunting this house. The world is ending and it’s all taking place right where I am!” However, he was brought back to his senses when he saw the black dog turn around to face him. By instinct, Dante retreated upstairs to avoid it.

“Wait, no, this is bad!” Dante fretted. “I have to tell the others! I told them to call on me if this were to happen, but I’m not hearing anything from them. Where did they go? Did they know about the ghost dog already and hid?”

Dante could detect the scent of his multiple brothers and sisters from more than one place in the house. However, when he tried to open any of the doors, they couldn’t seem to open. He also tried the tunnels (which was usually Delgado’s main method of transport around the house), which seemed to be barricaded. Even the flaps for the dumbwaiter couldn’t open.

From what Dante could recall, Delilah and Doug both haven’t arrived back home yet tonight, and that left him with one more opportunity to warn about the mythological being that was lurking within his home. Even if it meant that the World Wide Woof might not believe him, he was still going to use it to prevent the Dalmatian family from facing impending doom. The dalmatian goth darted over to the front door with the paw scanner. To his misfortune, nothing was happening even after pressing on it multiple times, while the front door remained locked. That was when Dante came to the full realization that was apparently stuck inside the house with the ghost dog. This brought him into full-on panic.

“Dylan! Dolly! Anyone! If you can hear me right now, please answer!” Dante exclaimed.

Dante’s answer was heard. “Help!” The collective cries of the other dalmatians echoed.

“Help! Just help! Only help! Nothing but help!” Dante also heard, recognizing the voice coming from Diesel.

“Guys, you’re still here!?” Dante asked.

“Yes, please save us!” The dalmatians answered back.

“Where are you, though?” Dante asked again.

“I’m not sure. It’s too dark to see, from where we are,” he heard Dylan’s voice respond. “The last thing we all remembered is the same thing. We were ambushed by what appeared to be a black dog.”

“So...so it is real!” Dante replied. “Has it harmed any of you?”

“I don’t think so…but listen, don’t worry about us right now,” he heard Dolly’s voice respond. “Show it whose boss and what happens when it messes with your family! If you face it, then I’m sure you’ll be able to come help us.”

“Okay...then I’ll just have to face off against that black dog myself.”

The motivation from the voices of the dalmatians reassuring them that they aren’t hurt was enough motivation to make Dante swallow his fear. He was stuck in the house with the black dog of Camden, but that also meant that it was stuck with him, so he went back to scavenging around the house for the eponymous ghost dog. He went over to the living room to see if anything about it changed since after the sudden blackout. Shining his flashlight across the area, he spotted what he had dreaded to see right in front of him. It was the black dog again. It was quick to notice his presence, glaring at him and then creeping up to him.

To Dante’s astonishment, he heard it speak, “Dante…we- err, I’ve been waiting for you!” The sound of its voice seemed to be distorted, but the dalmatian goth was too overwhelmed by fear to figure if it rings familiar to him. “I have come to bring you to the underworld and collect your bones!”

As the black dog continued to inch forward, Dante cowered back with his tail between his legs and made a dart to the kitchen to escape and hide in one of the cabinets.

“I’ll find you Dante, just like how I found your other fellow dogs,” Dante heard the black dog say.

When Dante didn’t hear any more from the ghost dog after a minute, he determined that the coast was clear and so he got out of his hiding spot. He searched around the kitchen to find any trace of his siblings, only to find most of the cabinets to contain nothing more than a heap of appliances. When he opened one of them, he saw what appeared to resemble a black cat.

“…Blair?” Dante asked.

The alleged cat screeched and scurried out of the area, startling Dante for a moment. Focusing back on trying to find his siblings, the dalmatian goth swayed the light across the kitchen and saw some objects he hadn’t seen before. On the walls were what seemed to be a large black banner draped across the flat archway and purple paper garlands spread throughout each corner, and then he glanced at what he assumed was a shadow of the black dog. When the light shone on it, it was gone in a second. Trying to find the same shadowed figure, Dante swung his flashlight around the walls once more, but it was no longer in sight.

Continuing his search for his siblings and as well as the ghost dog, Dante was then alarmed by the sound of something rushing through the house and the sound of wheels screeching. Looking around for the source of the noise, he spotted a dark figure resembling the supernatural being, dashing in the first and second floors in an instant. When Dante tried to shine a light on the fast-moving object, it was out of his sight in a split second before he could make out its appearance. Moments later, the noises have ceased.

Dante, who is now visibly shaking in fear with his tail between his legs said indirectly to the ghost dog, “Come on and show yourself, I’m not afraid! Yeah, I’m definitely not afraid, not at all!”

With no answer being given afterwards, Dante continued to look around the house with his flashlight. What he found next was what he dreaded to find, chilling him right down to the bone. Scattered around the floor close to him, he found collars belonging to Dylan and Dolly. Further along, he saw Triple D’s collars, then the Dimitris’s, then Deepak’s, then Diesel’s…it didn’t seem to end. Next he saw Dawkins’s collar, then Dee Dee & Dizzy’s, then Da Vinci’s bandana, and then the collars belonging to more of his siblings. It was just like in his tale that he told the previous night about how the black dog left behind the collars of its victims. He then thought about the others that sported more than just their collars. It was then that he came across Delgado’s collar on the ground along with his wheelchair, and as well as DJ’s collar, with his headphones discarded along with it, and DJ never went anywhere without them, and that was when he knew that this situation was dire.

Dante went from feeling terrified to downright devastated. He sat where he stood, waiting for the nightmare to end, waiting for the black dog to make its next move, waiting for that glimmer of hope to put a stop to the end of the world as he knew it. Now, he was all alone, with nothing else to do, and with no one to help him.

“I’ve been waiting for the world to end, but not like this…” Dante lamented, now in the verge of tears. “I wanted my family to be prepared for moments like this and yet I’ve failed to help them. Why? Why am I still here to deal with the ghost from the story I told!? Somebody answer me, please!”

As if by a miracle, Dante then heard the sound of a crying pup coming from the kitchen. He retreated there and went underneath the table to discover the source, and it was what he had recognized that voice to be. It was Dorothy. Somehow she’s still here unscathed. Her collar was still intact and she was still wearing the costume she was put in. Dorothy’s crying ceased as Dante approached her gently, relieved to see that she had survived the doomsday at the paws of the ghost dog.

“Dorothy, you’re safe,” Dante whispered. “Hey, I’m not going to hurt you. I won’t let that ghost hurt any of my siblings, and I especially won’t let it hurt you.”

Dante was trying to comfort the infant pup, but she was still distraught just like he was. At that point, Dante found himself in a difficult situation. As a dog that has never showed a hopeful disposition in hopeless circumstances, what should he do? What can he do?

Then he reminisced his meeting with the paw reader mere hours before the chaos…

After the disastrous results of the Camden Town costume contest, he and Dawkins were walking their way back home until Dante lifted one of his ears, catching the sound of someone playing a guitar and singing a certain song with it, compelling him to follow its source.

The carefree days

Are distant now

I wear my memories like a shroud

I try to speak but words collapse


Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat

The bitter and the sweet

“Hey Dawkins, do you hear that?” Dante asked.

“I hear it also, but it’s probably nothing for us to check out,” Dawkins responded. When he saw Dante chasing the sound, Dawkins followed after. “Hold on, where you going!?”

Dante made his way towards a shack with a sign that read “Clairvoyant Clair’s Fortune Shop” and followed his path towards the back of the shop, where the opening was obscured by a curtain of beads. He went through and saw the source of the music right in front of him, who had the appearance of a Bombay cat.

I wander through your sadness

Gazing at you with scorpion eyes



The cat stopped playing and singing once as she noticed the dalmatian goth that had showed up out of the blue.

“Oh, ‘ello, are you a customer?” The black cat asked Dante.

“Is your shop closing?” Dante asked back.

“This is actually my pet’s fortunetelling shop,” the black cat corrected. “I do work around here too in which I read the paws of animals that visit. I was going to call it a night, but I’ll make an exception for you. We haven’t gotten a lot of customers today anyways since most folks are preoccupied with the Halloween season, so I’ve been doing some jams to curb the boredom.”

“Well, I liked the music that you were playing, which was why I came to see you.”

“Yeah, it’s a Siouxsie and the Banshees song. I can tell by the way you look that they must be the type of music you’re into.”

“I’ve heard of them, so I guess you could say that.”

“They broke up ages ago, so they’re way past my time. So are The Beatles and yet just about everyone in London knows and loves them anyway. Now let’s not get too off-topic, I’m not a fan of introductions, but I’m Blair. What’s your name, dog?” Dante could tell by the way Blair talked and how she looked that she seemed to be roughly a little over Dylan and Dolly’s age.

“Well, I’m Dante. Dante Dalmatian.”

“A black dalmatian with white and purple spots, huh? You’re quite the rare kind. So tell me Dante, are you here to have your paw read?”

“Will it hurt?”

“All I’m going to do is touch your paw and tell your fortune. Most of the future predictions I’ve given out overtime have turned out to be true, but whether or not the fortune I give you is completely accurate is all up to you.”

“You seem to have a cool job.”

“Well, I think running this business with my pet is kind of a drag. Most of the time, we get these customers who come back to complain about their fortunes even if they turn out true, like how they’re foretold that they’ll find true love, and it’s not the person of their type, or when they’re foretold that they’ll find their next course of action in their lives when it hits them, and they come back to tell us that they got hit in the back of the head by a football. You know, stuff like that.”

Dante was always one to make doomsday predictions in the spur of the moment and he hadn’t considered having his own future foretold by someone else. Thinking over it, he figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.

“Well, you see, I’ve always had this fixation with making predictions about any potential dangers like the world ending, and just a couple months ago, I’ve almost witnessed it. I have two parents and ninety-eight brothers and sisters, and there was this evil lady, who attempted to kill us all, and she didn’t just want any fur, she wanted ours! Next thing I knew before I was about to accept my fate, my oldest siblings Dylan and Dolly came to our rescue, then this human kid, Hunter, put that puppy killer into her own skinning machine before mum and dad stopped it. Then the police came and brought her to justice, but then she said that we haven’t seen the last of her, and that was still the last I’ve seen or heard from her. After that, I couldn’t stop thinking what if she does come back.”

“That sounds like quite a tall tale. Then again, the story was all over the news.”

“What I’m trying to say is that the experience made me feel more concerned about the end of the world. It’s been bothering my siblings lately, but I want them to be safe and sound and I want to make sure that they’ll be prepared for any unpredictable event, such as that very incident that I couldn’t predict.”

“I see…so answer me this, are you prepared for the unpredictable?”

“That’s why I thought if you could read my paw. I don’t think I’m ready to face it either.”

“So, you want to know if the world is coming to an end sooner than later.”

“Yes, please do tell me.”

Accepting the request, Blair started to stroke Dante’s right paw to read his fortune.

“Well, Dante…you may not like what I have to say at first, but I can sense that your world will be ending.”

“I knew it, the end is nigh!”

“I’m not finished. Do you want to know what I sensed?” Dante responded to Blair with a simple nod, still feeling paranoid about the fortune he had just been given. “From what I could sense, you’ll encounter a phantom of a black dog with sharp teeth, razor claws, and glowing red eyes in the comfort of your home. With only one light to guide you, you’ll find yourself all alone with the creature with no way of being able to warn anybody of the danger. Later, the ghost will leave behind the collars of each of your ninety-eight siblings before it takes them to the underworld where they may never be seen again, while they’re reduced to their bones that may forever be part of its collection.”

“Hey wait a minute. That sounds like the ghost story I’ve told them last night, except my family and I are inserted into it!”

“Yeah, it rings a few bells to “The Black Dog of Camden.” I’ve noticed some other animals passing that story around, so it doesn’t surprise me it’s gotten your attention.”

“Is that it?”

“No. Just when you think it’s all hopeless, you’ll find that one pup has survived, and then two, and finally, you’ll find that by some miracle, all of your siblings are alive, waiting to give you a special celebration of sorts. Could it be the end, or could it be something else? That all comes down to one particular force.”

“What is that force?”

Blair then gave her answer by pointing one of her paws directly at Dante.

“Wait, do you mean…me?”

“Dante, one thing you should understand about the future is that it’s not very easy to predict. If you sense that the world is collapsing, the key to preventing it is for you, yourself, to take on those disasters and to not blindly accept or run away from them. Good omens or bad omens, your future rests in your own paws, and that’s all I can say about your fortune. I would usually have you pay me in kibble, but since I’m off the clock and you’re such an interesting dog to talk you, you don’t have to pay me anything.”

“I just have one question. What would you do if the world is ending?”

“I’m not sure. Honestly, I’d rather die before that happens. Apparently, the world was said to end in 2012, and here we all are years later, still biding our time.” Dante felt rather astonished to see that Blair was more pessimistic than he was.

“If the world doesn’t end tonight, then I’ll just have to come back and thank you, and um, I know this feels weird to ask you, but how would you feel about me playing music with you the next time we meet? I do have my own electric guitar and my brother DJ tells me that I’m really good at singing, although he knows a lot more about music than I do.”

“Have me meet that brother of yours while you’re at it. If we’re all not dead before tomorrow, then go ahead and do that.”

“I should be going now. Dawkins must be really mad at me for making him wait this long. Thanks anyways for everything that you’ve told me.”

Back in the present times, Dante still found himself in his current state of affairs. He still wasn’t sure if all of his siblings were okay, but seeing Dorothy alive and unharmed gave him the propulsion to do what he hadn’t done before and hold on to hope for the sake of his siblings.

“Dorothy, it may be just the two of us right now, but…we’re going to find the others,” Dante uttered. “They’ve got to be okay because…because…our family is stronger than some urban legend!”

If Dante was foretold that he would be the one who stops the end of the world, then he decided that he was going to do what he had never considered before and be the dog that fulfills that destiny. He picked up Dorothy and had her rest easy on his head before getting out from hiding.

“Everyone, if you can hear me, give me a howl!” Dante exclaimed.

Dante’s hopes were lifted up as he was given the reassurance that needed, hearing back a group of howls that corresponded with his multiple siblings.

“Please hurry, Dante,” Dante hear Deepak’s voice utter, “I can feel the gateway to the underworld pulling us in and I don’t have enough chakra to keep holding on!”

“Do you hear that, Dorothy?” Dante asked. “We still have time to save them!” Seeing Dante with his renewed confidence was enough to lift Dorothy’s own spirits. “We’re going to save the world, yes we are!” He then said in a cooing tone. “We’re going to find the big bad ghost, and we’ll die together trying if we have to!” Though Dorothy didn’t comprehend anything her brother was saying, she still let out a giggle as a way of showing support.

Dante and Dorothy made their way back near the front door of 101 Dalmatian Street. Dante sensed a presence coming from the stairs and caught the sound of something stumbling down the stairs. After the bout of noise, Dante shined his flashlight on what he assumed was the black dog he was after.

“There it is!” Dante stated. “Whoever you are let my family go!”

Dante tackled the being and rolled himself against the wall, only touching the piece of cloth it bore. After shaking himself, he then noticed that the object that he attacked was Diesel’s sheet costume. He retrieved the flashlight and pointed it to see Diesel, still alive and well, despite that his collar was detached.

“Hey Dante, are you hunting ghosts too?” Diesel asked.

“Diesel, I’m sorry, I thought you were the ghost!” Dante responded as he came over to him along with Dorothy with a feeling of reassurance. “You’re all right, but…I saw your collar on the ground!”

“Oh yeah, I was told to take it off,” Diesel replied.

“Huh?” Dante said with befuddlement. “Look, I need your useful sense of smell. Do you know where the others could be?”

“Of course I do, but I was told not to tell you.”

“What are you talking about, Diesel? Did the ghost brainwash you or something?”

“Brainwashed? But I don’t dig washing. Oh look, is that the black dog of Camden?” Diesel said nonchalantly.

Upon mention of the phantom dog, Dante turned his back to see that it has reappeared right beside the front door, prompting for him to scream in terror. To the dalmatian goth’s surprise, the front door now appeared to be open, but the view was obscured by a blinding white light that he believed was the portal to the underworld. Before Dante could face it, he felt a mysterious force pulling his body into the white light, motioning for Diesel and Dorothy to stand back.

“We meet again Dante, for the last time!” The black dog spoke.

“What did you do to my siblings?” Dante demanded. “Let them free!”

“Your siblings are all fine,” the black dog replied. “I’ve now made them all sausages- err, hostages of the underworld. It looks like I’ve missed a few for my collection, and you’re next!”

Dante still felt as the mysterious force was dragging him into the portal. With a burst of bravado, he kept his paws secure on the flooring and gazed directly into the black dog.

“No, I won’t let you bring the end of the world,” Dante asserted, “not when I’m still around, and not when my family’s life is on the line!”

In the heat of the moment, Dante sunk his teeth into the skin of the black dog. He continued to tug on it without recognizing the “fur” as tarp while the black dog seemed to be trying to maintain its covering until it uttered a certain word that the dalmatian goth didn’t expect to hear.

“Gobbledygook, gobbledygook!” Dante heard a different voice coming from inside the black dog.

It was then that Dante heard more voices of his siblings repeating the same ‘quit word’ that Dylan had mentioned. Although Dante became confused why what was going on, he pulled off the tarp with his teeth once as the lights in each room flickered back on one by one, and there he saw, in the place of what he thought was the mythical being, Triple D stacked on top of each other, while Déjà Vu held a plastic toy microphone in one paw. Right afterwards, the house’s unnerving atmosphere had abruptly changed. Dante also heard the doors for each of the rooms creaking open, revealing the dalmatians that have appeared to be hiding all this time, albeit with their collars detached. In addition, the mist that enshrouded the first floor had subsided, and the light resembling the entrance to the underworld had also dissolved while the turbulent force that was pulling him into its path had also gone away.

“Triple D…?” Dante questioned.

“This Triple D you speak of is not here, for I have-“ Déjà Vu spoke from the voice-changing microphone that she used to act out as the ghost dog.

“Um, Déjà Vu, our cover is blown,” Destiny interrupted.

“Ruh-roh, I mean, surprise!” Déjà Vu uttered.

“Huh, what’s going on?” Dante asked before he turned out to see the rest of his siblings all gathered in the main room.

For the longest time, Dante had hard time figuring out why the holiday was so important to him, and know he remembered why. It was someone’s birthday today – HIS birthday. Because he clouded up his mind on the black dog myth, the paw reading, and his fixation on the world ending, he somehow forgot, but all of his siblings remembered, as he was greeted by a black banner with white-painted letters that read…

“Happy birthday, Dante!” The group of dalmatians chorused.

“My birthday…it was today?” Dante asked.

“How could we forget?” Dylan responded. “We thought that you’d remember sooner or later.”

“After saving the world from ending, you sure deserve this special day, so let’s celebrate!” Dolly said before Dylan nudged her shoulder and gave a side glance. “Oh yeah, and I know we have a lot of explaining to do, so here’s what really happened…”

Dylan and Dolly started by telling Dante that they had Triple D masquerade as the mythical black dog by using Da Vinci’s canvas tarp as the body to conceal their identities, Deepak's stalactite gemstones to resemble teeth, and used a couple of Halloween accessories they’ve snatched for the rest of its features, with the red LED shades for the glowing eyes and prop claws for the razor-sharp claws. They then explained that the scary sound effects came from DJ’s keyboard, that the locked rooms were actually the younger pups playing with the doors, that Dawkins, being the mechanic in the family, was the one who turned off the lights and power, as well as the one who temporarily disabled the paw scanner. Dylan and Dolly continued to say that they’ve used Delgado’s agility to scatter the collars they took off while Da Vinci decorated the kitchen in secret, and they both have had them covered in soot to conceal their identities, and while Diesel showing up wasn’t originally part of the setup, they had him make a sudden appearance to lift Dante’s spirits. They also acknowledged that the fog came from their fog machine that they’ve had in the basement, they borrowed Constantin’s giant fan for the effect of making Dante feel like he was being dragged into the “portal to the underworld, while the lighting at the front door itself was another result of Dawkins tampering the house’s power source. They also explained that they had Delgado come to where Dawkins was so that he could remove his wheelchair and set it beside his collar while they were putting it back on him.

“So that explains it,” said Dante. “What about the cat that was in one of the cabinets?”

“That was Deepak,” Dylan and Dolly both said in a blunt tone.

“My mistake, I actually thought you were someone else, Deepak,” Dante said towards him.

“So you’ve met a cat that reads paws,” Deepak remarked. “You should introduce me.”

“What about Dorothy?” Dante asked. “She seemed to be really scared.”

Upon being asked that questioned, Dylan and Dolly both expressed guilty looks before they picked up the infant pup from Dante’s head and nuzzled her.

“Oh yeah, if there’s anyone we definitely owe an apology to, it’s Dorothy,” said Dolly.

“She wasn’t part of the setup at all,” Dylan explained. “We needed to her to stay put in our hiding place, but the sounds that DJ was playing from his keyboard scared her off. She must’ve found you after she saw our fake ghost dog.”

“Sorry Dorothy, we won’t end up scaring you like that again,” Dolly murmured.

“We should also apologize to you, Dante, for making you go through such an emotional rollercoaster by faking the apocalypse,” Dylan continued. “What we’ve meant to do is try and get your mind off what happened months ago and put your predictions at ease by showing you that we and the other pups will come prepared for these unpredictable moments, that you should too, and to motivate you to help us in any time of need. Other than that, the previous birthdays we’ve arranged for you always turn out to be, well…uneventful, and we wanted to put more thought into it this time around, so that’s when we thought that a suitable birthday present for you would be the end of the world, even if it’s staged.”

“So, how do you feel about all this, Dante?” Dolly asked. “Are you mad at us?”       

Dante understood Dylan and Dolly’s intentions though he was still struggling to process how he should feel about the experience he just had. He should be mad about how the catastrophic event he got worked up over turning out to be a hoax, but Dylan and Dolly immediately apologized to him about. He should feel relieved to know that not only are all his siblings are all right, they also showed them that they’re not scared either. Should he be entertained? Halloween is meant to be a fun yet scary occasion, but the staging of the black dog of Camden made him feel like he was set up for a joke and yet he didn’t see any of the pups laughing at him and such, as they smiled at him because it was his special day. So should he feel proud, about how he came to their rescue, even if, again, the end of the world wasn’t real? Blair did foretell him that all his siblings were going to surprise him with some sort of celebration and that it was his destiny to be the hero that they wanted for him to be. Thinking over how much thought the dalmatians put into his birthday surprise and the assurance of how much they all care for him, Dante decided to return his feelings with a rare casual smile.

“It’s okay, I appreciate you guys for doing all this for me,” Dante said as he presented the dalmatians with a group hug. However, his tail began to wag when he sensed Doug and Delilah coming back home from work.

When Dante opened up the front door for the two parents, he saw them carrying several containers of birthday kibble cake (they are a big family after all) from Delilah, and a bundle of birthday balloons from Doug, which were black with white polka dots, matching the color of his coat.

“Mum, dad, welcome back!” Dante exclaimed.

“Why, you sure seem to be overjoyed today,” Delilah remarked.

“Why wouldn’t he be? It’s his birthday today,” said Doug and he then spoke to him a doting tone, “Look at how much our spotty-dotty has grown.”

“We could’ve done this earlier today though,” Delilah added. “But Dylan and Dolly told us that they were going to handle the surprise they’ve had for you this time.”

“Yeah, and they’ve done a good job with it,” Dante remarked.

“We’re just glad we’re here to see you enjoy your birthday, we couldn’t miss it for the world,” said Doug. “Normally, I would be coming home later since this is the time of the season other than ‘Boom Night,’ where fire safety dangers tend to happen, but we have seen fewer of those incidents today.”

“That’s good,” Dante replied.

For the next half hour, the Dalmatians have celebrated Dante’s birthday. By tradition, he was given the first piece of the kibble cakes his parents got for him while Dorothy, by his suggestion, got the second, smaller piece. While most of the pups were already taken to the bedroom either from exhaustion or from having one too many dog treats, Dante had fun for the rest of the night. Before he could call it a night, he was later approached by Dylan and Dolly again.

“Hey, I understand if you’re still a little bummed out by our ghost dog hoax, there’s one thing we’d like for you to do to compensate for that,” said Dylan.

“Huh, what’s that?” Dante asked.

“Just follow our lead,” Dolly said with a smirk.

After the dirty trick that Clarissa pulled earlier, Dylan and Dolly thought that they would pay her a visit with a little trick of their own. They rang the doorbell, compelling for the corgi to bark for her human owner, Hugo, to go and answer it. What they were met by was the presence of the black dog of Camden, but this time with Dante taking on the disguise.

“Clarissa…I have come to haunt you for your bones!” Dante acted. “Show them to me or this night will be your last!”

Clarissa gave out a scream while Hugo (who only heard barking coming from Dante) fainted. Afterwards, Dylan and Dolly appeared from behind to give a laugh, alongside Dante and Dorothy after the former slipped out the tarp to reveal themselves underneath.

Realizing that she had been tricked by the dalmatians, Clarissa’s terrified expression turned sour and growled, “Ruff raff,” before closing the door behind them.

Just when the elder dalmatians were about to hit the hay for the night, they caught a sight that they never thought they’d see, in which Dante was about to lull Dorothy to sleep – a far-cry from the Dante that they’ve known from the previous night.

“And Dorothy, by clicking together the heels of her ruby paw slippers, returned back to her own home in Camden by repeating ‘There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…’” Dante spoke in a soft tone as Dorothy fell asleep, reinterpreting the ending of The Wizard of Oz.

In an instant, Dante himself had crashed to sleep right next to Dorothy, after a long night’s worth of ghosts, tricks, predictions, and kibble cake.

Dolly and Dylan couldn’t help but smile knowing that they can rest easy now. The very next day, however…

“No, no, no, this can’t be happening!” Dante exclaimed as he looked through the window of the first floor of his home. “The end is drawing near!”

“Huh, what is it this time, Dante?” Dylan asked.

“See for yourselves as the chaos unfolds!” Dante cautioned.

Dylan and Dolly opened the front door to see what he was talking about. As they expected, it was the time of year again for the human residents of Camden to take down their Halloween decorations while they scrambled to start putting up their Christmas decorations. They could hear from the cars passing by that the stations were already playing Christmas music too.

“Oh, so that’s what you meant…” Dolly deadpanned.

Even if the end of the world wasn’t in sight, it was still a bigger anomaly to the dalmatians why the humans would start showing their Christmas spirit this early on when December was still one month away.

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