Sx4 Volume 2 (Winter 2016)

volume1double

Table of Contents:

volume1single

Chapter 1

The Battle of Logical Limbo

Barely lit mountain peaks amongst the near darkness. The cold and howling wind. The faint scent of cherry blossoms from the valley below. The numbness of your feet and calves, pressed between the straw mat and the rest of your body. Hunger, exhaustion, but also readiness and clarity. The sun is almost risen.

The first beams of light pivot over the peaks. Footsteps — leather against stone, approaching the site of your vigil.

Voiced like the quivering wind, but backed by a will of iron: “Acolyte, it is time.”

Standing. Downward rush of blood, lightheadedness, but steady. Dry lips speak for the first time since the set of sun: “As it is time without, so is it time within.” Barely recognize your own words.

Feel the cool handle of your broadsword resting in the hilt at your side. The footsteps are growing closer. In the distance, the horses of the night riders gallop towards you, and your breath quickens as you back against the cave where your ancestors slept. A snap and a scream below tells you a minion has hit the first of your bear traps. The footsteps keep coming and you know the time has come. Hoisting your bow to your shoulder, you peek over the edge, inhale, aim for the head, exhale, release. Time is slowing but soon it will vanish. Soon the arrows, the bear traps and the your breath will run out, and the sacred land of Adderon will finally fall. But true to your vow, you shall not surrender while there is blood in your veins and a fire in your heart. The next arrow strikes right below the lip.

But you do not panic. The arrow might have struck right below the lip, but below your lip lies your heart. The blood of your lip belies the strength of your heart. Yes, you know the time has come, but the time for what? The time for you to gather your breath, face the horses of the night, and use the fire in your heart to bring back the sacred land of Adderon!

With an army of men at your side, you shout the war cry, and your fellow Acolytes follow in suit. Your breaths grow deeper, you briefly close your eyes, and then charge.

With the wind rushing in your face, the adrenaline running through your veins, you push the horse to move faster and faster. You speed through your boundaries and catch the minions by surprise. They could not even see your arrows coming. You and your men ravaged the outerlands in wee hours of dawn, eliminating anything in sight.

As the battle commences, it appears as though you might actually win. But you know better. These minions are just pawns, hardly worth the effort it takes to drive your sword clean through their hearts. No, they are not the ones to worry about. Their master is. Their master, a creature so evil, so consumed with darkness, even the the fiercest of beasts turn to quail in fear. Few have seen the nameless monstrosity and lived to tell the tale, but those who return alive might as well be dead.

Prune Prudence

A little known fact about Adam and Eve that was left out of the Bible is that the fruit the fruit that they each bit into that was originally forbidden from them was a prune. So as a symbol of their sin, God made prunes wrinkly and taste really bad (along with all making the rest of the world a naturally sinful place).

Not only do prunes still have a nasty taste today, but their pits have adapted over the years to become poisonous to humans. When Adam and Eve ate the first prune, they were not poisoned because they were not yet very advanced beings, and the prune was not yet a very advanced, evil fruit. Now, however, if you try to consume an entire prune you will become very sick from the poison inside the pide, and you may even die from the terrible taste.

In 1633, it was recorded by a young scholar in Italy by the name of Philip Carlo that he came across “a rather attricious-looking fruit, with the texture of an elderly human being.”

He also remarked that its taste was “remarkably akin to that of a batch of elderberries that I ate but one of and at once fed to my pet hamster.” This quotation is also the little-known secret origin of a famous line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, held mostly among the innermost circle of Monty Python fanatics.

In fact Philip Carlo had chanced upon a rotting mango, not the accursed prune, but this mistake was not discovered until years later by forensic researchers and the prunes retained their infamous reputation.

In the early 20th century, Albert Welch decided it was time to destroy the legend of the prune once and for all. In the span of only a few years he changed the prune from the devil’s fruit to a bowel loosener and began marketing to the elderly. In time Welch moved on to the less controversial grape and never looked back. (His descendents refused to comment on the story.)

Although the elderly were perfectly happy with their bowel-loosening prunes, the children were far from satisfied. Welch was sure that his plot to convert the children to Grapism would be successful. What, after all, could be controversial about the consumption of a great grape? The kids didn’t buy it. So now what?? Well, some genius decided to tell the kids about the grape: the grape is of the botanical genus Vitis. Instead of a genus, the genius created an imaginary Genie named Vitis, who supposedly conjured up the great grapes out of thin air, to help convince the kids to eat them grapes. The slogan was: Grapes from the Genie Vitis! What great vittles these grapes make! GO GRAAPESSSSS!!!!

The secret of the prune would have been well hidden had it not been for an up and coming archaeologist by the name of Andrea Wilson. She was said to be the greatest archaeologist since Indiana Jones. She was searching for the ancient Garden of Even in the Middle East where she happened upon a site of ancient, dried out, rotten prunes. The arid environment of the desert enabled these prunes to be preserved for thousands of years. What was interesting is this was the only vegetation seen for 20 square miles. What would a random set of rotten prunes be doing here without any sign of civilization. Little did she know that she just stumbled upon the greatest secret of humanity.

Sink or Swim

A kitchen. Modern, with stainless steel appliances. The countertops are granite, and the cupboards a matching hue. The tiles are flawless, except for a crack by the refrigerator that is so small that it is almost unnoticeable. The sink faucet is the only thing that does not fit with the rest of the room. It is at least twenty years old, and is very out of place with the rest of the room. Soon, it will be replaced. The sink surveys the kitchen, knowing that its time is almost up. It was at one point a useful sink, one to be coveted and ranked third out of fifty as best sink of the year, 1995. Not that any of that mattered now. It had been a good sink, but was not anymore.

On a bright and early morning, three men dressed in old clothes covered in stains and dust come into the kitchen carrying a pristine-looking sink. This sink is smooth and white, and made of porcelain. When the men place the sink directly in front of the old sink that is already installed in the kitchen, the old sink begins to worry.

Until this very moment, it has been at peace with the impending void, only steps in time ahead of it, but now old fears flare up, stronger than ever before. It teeters on the brink of nothingness. Surely there must be some way. Some way out. Oh, god…

Unbeknownst to the three men, the handles of the faucet perk with a sudden realization. A hope. To reveal the most forbidden secret of all faucetkind. The faucet takes a deep inward gurgle and closes its valve, focusing. What will become of it for its heresy? Surely it can be no worse than death and recyclation, that unnatural, Frankensteinish horror that awaits fallen appliances. The faucet is decided. Resolute, it will claim its right to live.

The old sink made a pact with the only other appliance of a similar generation in the kitchen, an old forgotten broom that skulked in the corner. Its handle was an ugly shade of mauve and its dustbin had deserted it long ago. Nevertheless, it was no less unwilling to sink into the dark oblivion of a junkyard.

When the men walked into the kitchen, knees bent with the weight of the intruder resting in their arms, the courageous broom launched itself before their legs. With a cry, the first of the men tripped backwards. Down went the sink, landing with a sickening crack on the flawless tile floor. The old sink knew this was its chance. It launched itself out a nearby window and into the thick grass beyond. It nearly missed a cookie jar resting on the lawn. The sink just had time to see a small creature with iridescent violet eyes dart across the street and disappear into the bushes. Strange. The sink knew it had no time to waste, and hurriedly followed the creature. When it arrived at the post office where a fire had been extinguished moments before, it hopped aboard the spaceship that had ignited the nearby gas tank. As the rocket roared off into the heavens, the sink wondered if people needed sinks on Venus.

Up went the sink, soaring upwards to find a new home for itself out there in outer space. The sink suspected that Venus would be perfect. Venus had to love the poor sink! After all, Venus is the goddess of love and beauty! Venus would appreciate the sink, no matter how many cracks it had! The first time the sink was used, the sink had never felt so loved in its life! But then the sink decided to read Wikipedia, and learned that “Venus is an inferior planet from Earth.” The poor sink felt so unimaginably inferior that it broke into pieces and cried, allowing the water droplets of its tears to flow throughout the planet. Finally, however, Venus was filled with water.

Cosmic Cleanliness

It is the year 2010. Rocky was just chilling next to his apple tree eating his sandwich when all of a sudden there was this futuristic sphere that seemed to pop out of nowhere. It was silver with a series of bright, flashy lights blinking all over it and a dark, one way window in the front. The machine seemed to shut down, and out of it came a male humanoid. He was wearing a sleek jumpsuit with his silver hair slicked back. He jumped out of the craft and landed with a thud. Rocky could not believe what was happening. This guy is an astronaut! Holy crap this guy is an astronaut! he thought, But he is not wearing a normal space suit. And he does not look like a normal human. And that orb does not look like a spacecraft, aren’t they bigger? His eyes widened. HE’S AN ALIEN! I’M GETTING ABDUCTED! AHHHHHHHHHH! Rocky started running the other direction, leaving his sandwich in the dust behind him.

Rocky ran as fast as he could, away from the strange humanoid. Out of all the ways that this day could go wrong, he had NOT expected this. Forgetting to do his homework? Yeah, that was a weekly occurrence. Getting hit by a car? Not as likely, but it could happen. Alien abduction? Not even something that would have occurred to him. But unfortunately that was what was happening now. Rocky surveyed the landscape, trying to find somewhere to hide. Meanwhile, the astronaut looked down at where Rocky had previously sat. Poor sandwich! This weird kid just ran away, abandoning it! “Why does this always happen?” thought the astronaut. “All I want is to make a friend, and they keep running away from me!” Alas, this is starting to sound like ET.

Clearly, the being’s astronaut disguise had not worked. This was the 2159th time that a potential new body had fled from the aging bromphlemite, and it estimated a mere 32 more intergalactic-standard minutes before age overtook it forever. It needed to think of a more proper disguise, find a way to exchange consciousnesses with another being, marooning them in its dying husk and living on in their body instead. Was it not the bromphlemite that held all of the universe’s knowledge? Would the universe not be doomed if it failed to find a new host?

Fortunately, at that moment, an old broomstick approached from the East and the bromphlemite had a glorious idea. Here was the perfect new host, an entity the bromphlemite could relate to. After all, they shared the same mission. The broomstick helped keep the Earth clean, and the bromphlemite helped keep the universe clean. Without another thought, the bromphlemite merged with the tired broomstick and regretted the decision immediately.

The Person of Short Stature

There was once a person of short stature, and everyone in the world called him the Person of Short Stature. There was one evil man, however, who called him the Short Person. How inhumane! The Person of Short Stature HATED being called the Short Person, because he wanted to be identified by his personhood and not by his shorthood. That evil man claimed that the Person of Short Stature had reached too great a level of shortness to even be considered a person!

The poor Person of Short Stature was highly offended, so he decided to put himself into the stretching machine or find SOME way to make himself taller so that the evil man would appreciate him. He had heard that there was a great Ruler who would be able to solve his problem, so he went off in search of the great Ruler.

The great Ruler was in charge of telling every person how tall he was. But truth be told, the Ruler was a very deceitful man. He knew how to bend things to make people look shorter than they really were, or put himself on a pedestal to make people look taller. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky… The Person of Short Stature made the long and painful journey towards the Ruler. It was long and torturous, but, in his mind, a worthy cause. How dare the evil man say that he was not worthy of being a person! He got so absorbed in his thoughts that he almost walked into the Lake of Lost Dreams. You never want to go there.

Eventually, the Person of Short Stature made it to the front gates of the palace. He had heard the tales of the deceitfulness of the Ruler, but he was well respected in the kingdom, and expected that the Ruler would be very willing to help out such an upstanding citizen of his kingdom. Little did he know that the Ruler was already aware of his journey and request, and had something special in store for the Person of Short Stature. The Ruler paced his royal corridor, thinking about what he would do once his visitor arrived. The Ruler had many visitors, all obsessed with how tall they were. They would come in, day after day, for the entire year and complain. Oh, would they complain. “How tall am I? I just hate being so short”, “I’m 6’3”, but I really think I’m 6’3.5””, “Can you make me taller?” It was SO tiring! It was a wonder he hadn’t quit his job long ago.

Suddenly the PoSS (as he was affectionately known to some people in the kingdom) burst through the door. His booming voice cried out, “I wish to know! How many people can say they are shorter than I? For I am the Person of Short Stature! I come bearing gifts of tuna fish for the One who can show me how to defeat the Evil Man Who Identifies People By Things They Can’t Control!”

“Oh, you mean the EMWIPBTTCC,” remarked a steward of the court.

“Yes! That dude!” cried the PoSS. “He insists on calling me the Short Person, and honestly it kinda hurts my feelings.”

“Silence!” yelled the Ruler. “I make the Rules around here. And I have a Plan for you…”

Still hidden behind an ornate tapestry, the king went on. “I hear you’ve a knack for seeing things the way they truly are. Tell me, little one, what see you in me?”

The tapestry rose, and there, before the POSS, stood…

Nothing?

The POSS was stricken with awkwardness and confusion. “My lord, I… I’m afraid I see–”

“Nothing, my child? Look more closely.”

The POSS cautiously ascended the steps to where the tapestry had been, sweeping the stage with his eyes.

“Closer still.”

The POSS saw him then, sitting cross-legged atop a single loop in the ornate carpet at his feet. “You… you are a small, small ruler. And you look exactly like me.”

“Yes. And, in time, you will grow down to be just like me. By giving to the people. With every fearful man and woman who comes to this hall, begging for more height, a piece of me goes with them to make them greater. And now I am nearly no more.”

The POSS stood silent, dumbstruck.

“Tell me: will you carry on the cycle, that all might continue to be happy?”

As he moved his lips to say “Of course,” the POSS grew numb and cold. He fainted, his right shoulder ploughing the king into the floor.

Oh, well.

Escape of the Cookie Jar

It was a cold February day when the cookie jar began to move. No one was around to hear the ceramic lid scrape as it shifted, or to see the base of the jar scoot towards the edge of the china cabinet. Only when it made a leap of freedom for the microwave did the golden retriever grow concerned. At the first bark the jar suddenly froze, perhaps unsure of how to continue. Seeing an open window, it executed a perfect double backflip and barrel-rolled into the lawn outside.

Mr. Henshaw had forgotten to mow the grass as usual, and a recent flood of showers ensured the lawn was thicker than ever. The cookie jar came to a rest among the tall blades and a curious head poked out of the lid. Iridescent violet eyes scanned the landscape. In the distance a fire engine rushed off to save the post office after a mysterious projectile had collided with a nearby heating unit and set the building ablaze. The eyes turned towards the siren. It was time to go home.

The creature lifted his head further, his tri-cornered hat pushing off the lid of the cookie jar like a baby chick pushing its way out of the egg. His eyes were focused in the direction of the siren. The sound of the siren was enchanting, especially for a creature who had evidently never seen the outside of the cookie jar or heard a sound in years. The little creature appeared to be a miniature sailor! The cookie jar toppled over as the little sailor stumbled out, on his way to find the siren that had attracted his attention so completely.

His first few steps were hard to take. Is this how you walk, he thought. It had been so long since he left that jar he needed a minute to get his footing. As he was adjusting, a car rolled into the driveway; it was Mr. Henshaw and his evil son, Bart. Bart was the one that imprisoned the little creature, and at the sight of the boy, the sailor forgot about the siren and ran the other direction as fast as his tiny feet would let him. What seemed like miles of running turned out to only be about a hundred feet. He was tired and turned to see Bart find the empty cookie jar and start yelling out in anger. Better to be exhausted than trapped again. And with that, he kept on running the other direction.

The sailor ran far away from Bart, desperate to finally be free from his prison. He looked up briefly at the sky, and almost stopped to marvel in wonder. It had been so long since he had seen the sky. It seemed bluer than he had remembered it, with clouds that looked softer than cotton. He quickly looked away. There would be time to take in the scenery later, as he couldn’t afford to waste any more time and risk losing his freedom.

The sailor looked around for his friend. They had promised to meet in the middle of the crop circle to get away from the prison the large people called “Arth.” But the winds were changing! A large tornado peaked from the increasingly-dark cloud, and a large metallic sphere hovered down from above. The sailor hopped in, and greeted his old friend. The ship teleported away, and stumbled upon some dude named Rocky eating a sandwich.

volume1double