“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 5”

Episode 5: Cookie Craze!- Things heat up as Elon divides the contestants into two teams. The winning team gets a special prize: the ability to send a rival contestant home!

            Elon White stands under the six Samurai Statues, who now hold razor sharp Katanas and face opposite two British Knights, the armor former exoskeletons of some brave souls who died for a king that didn’t care. White divides the teams into two, contestants from the USA, Britain and Jamaica (Team Chocolate) face off against contestants from Australia, Romania, and Greece (Team Vanilla).

Team Chocolate gets off to a rocky start, as Jenalee is incapacitated when a bag of flour explodes in her face, rendering her blind. She drags along like the walking dead, blinking flour off her corpse-white face. Team Vanilla brainstorms quickly and decides on making one giant cookie out of 1,000 smaller cookies. Adonis Letapolis of Greece turns on every stand mixer in the kitchen, the sound of so many motors forcing Elon White to shout while narrating the action.

Sam Brown burns his hand on the oven, a monster scab forms and shines like grotesque scales, and Betty helps Jenalee roll out the dough for their Rosemary-Brandy shortbreads. Luka Bretzagalatzin of Romania finishes spooning the dough for cookie 907 as White calls 40 minutes left in the battle. Luka rolls another cookie, his palms raw and bloody from forming so many perfect balls and stomach pregnant, ready to burst with stolen samples of raw dough.

The giant cookie comes out of the oven perfectly. It is cut into 1,000 equal pieces so that the judges may have a reasonable portion.

Jeff Londing is rushed to the hospital when it is discovered that Team Chocolate’s cookies contained not Brandy, but Formaldehyde. The episode closes as White awards Team Vanilla the prize: the power to send one contestant from Team Chocolate home. Under the shadow of the armor of two Spanish Conquistadors, Adonis Letapolis deems Betty eliminated; she explodes into flames and the credits roll.

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 4”

Episode 4: Tea Time Deviating from the norm, the contestants must use their baking skills in an unorthodox challenge: a tea ceremony. Who will steep the challenge, and who will go home?

Elon White stands under a rubber umbrella, a necessary tool to stop the thunder that continually strikes him from a small rain cloud that has formed specifically over his head. Four newly added Samurai statues flank him, creating a menacing but honorable line on either side of him. He introduces the contestants to the guest audience for the day, the local Wizard University’s Football team, the Wizards of Miami Zebras, who wear their uniforms, complete with two blue stripes on one sleeve and an old Monastic drawing of a Zebra stitched onto the front. Today’s bake, explains Elon darkly, is a traditional tea ceremony, complete with scones, tea cakes, crumpets, Japanese mochi treats, and the American tradition of a Cheeseburger Omelette.

The contestants grab the necessary ingredients except for Richard Rand, who is left only with 14 pounds of carrots.

Sam Brown begins an Earl Grey shortbread before he starting on his scones. As an ex-linebacker, Sam was not allowed to get anywhere near tea, he explains, as the NFL banned tea. He is obviously nervous and wonders aloud why he can’t use coffee instead.

Jenalee loses a staring contest with Sean and, at Elon’s command, is forced to relinquish her use of the gas burners and electric kettle. She is forced to try to boil water for tea using six candles and an admiring Wizard’s lucky talisman. Betty decides that, in hopes of saving time to brew her family’s secret tea recipe, she can use the same batter for her tea cookies, mochi, and cheeseburger omelette. Adonis Letapoulous lost his mother to Hemlock tea when he was a boy so, in protest, he omits the tea from his shortbreads, makes loukoumades, a salad of smoked salmon and smoked avocado with feta dressing, made from cheese from goats of Mt. Olympus, and Greek Coffee (also smoked from Mt. Olympus.)

Richard Rand turns his 14 pounds of carrots into a subservient robot that, while scoring high marks for reproducing the Japanese Matcha tea ceremony perfectly, will not stop calling Jeff Londing a ‘Loquacious Assnose’. (loquacious assnose)

As the contestants frantically fight their delicate teas, the student Wizards’ presence releases an influx of magic into the Bake Off, creating more thunderstorms. The four newly added Samurai statues now create long, warped shadows on the walls as lightning rains down. They look ready to fight, but each other or an oncoming army, no one knows. On a map, would they be two parallel blue lines? Or one red and one blue, a burst of spiky lines representing battle?

All around Luka Bretzagalatzin the influx of magic causes tiny, bright, flying ghosts rain down, calling names of loved ones long dead. He tries hard to focus on the pickled red onions for his Cheeseburger omelette, but the ghosts invade his skull, glowing behind his eyes and in every hair on his head. Through pure force of will, he pours his Coconut Rooibos as the ghosts of ex-lovers and countless men who have died by his hand infect his tea cakes.

Sean O’Malley makes the most beautiful display of the Round, with perfect Irish Breakfast tea, perfect scones, squishy Mochi, mouth-watering tea-cakes and a deconstructed Cheeseburger Omelette. Unfortunately for him, the extra magic turns his tea ceremony into a collection of tiny glass animals, delicate and strange in the flashing lightning. The Wizards delight in this; the make the creatures come to life and prance before the judges. One tiny glass horse defecates tiny glass shards into Jeffrey Londing’s lap.

Sam Brown serves the judges tea with the leaves still in the water. Jenalee’s food is undercooked, her tea cold. Betty’s tea is perfect, but her Omlette is simply bread and her mochi are, as Raleigh Simone puts it, “Basically garlic knots without the garlic.” Londing has, by now, used a samurai sword to cut Richard Rand’s robot to a perfect julienne salad, and Adonis Letapolis’ protest has only offended the Wizards, who grumble testily about the smoked coffee being too strong and not malty enough. Elon White, under a dark pillar of clouds that resemble the Horse Head Nebula, shouts “Enough!”

Despite the other contestant’s misgivings, Sean O’Malley is sent home for not providing the judges with any food and nearly killing Jeffrey with glass horse shit.

He bids a teary farewell to the camera, his beauty radiating sunshine through the storms. He leaves a weathered Celtic cross in his wake. The camera plays a melancholy fiddle arrangement of ‘Cockles and Mussels’ as the episode fades.

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 3”

Episode 3: Muffinmania! Elon White looks to the solar system for inspiration for this week’s challenge and packs it into the small but mighty muffin!

Elon White, flanked by two columns of Union soldiers, fresh from their trip from 1864, watches as an ambulance carts off Amir Usif, rendered to mad, half-conscious ravings by the flat side of Bianca Peteron’s Nagiata.  Elon announces that they are now down to eight contestants as a large, immersive map of the solar system appears around the contestants.

Each contestant, Elon says from the middle of a hand of poker with the boys from the Ohio 54th, will have a planet assigned to them. He wins his hand, the boys in blue throw their cards down in frustration. Your muffin must have your planet as a theme. Go!

Bianca Peteron of Spain is assigned Mercury. Jenalee picks Venus. Sean O’Malley, former fairy from Ireland, is given earth, Adonis Letapolis, current Centuar from Greece, Mars. Sam Brown from the United States is assigned Jupiter. Betty, tall and mysterious, is given Saturn, ringed and brave. Richard Rand despondently receives Uranus, the Union soldiers snickering in his direction. Luka Bretzagalatzin, finally, is given Neptune, an ice Giant to match the cold, dark, ice blue of his eyes and oft-exposed soul.

Luka begins making mini blueberry muffins with smiley-face icing. Bianca Peteron, at a loss, decides on corn muffins for her Mercury Muffins. One Union soldier attempts to convince her to just make her muffins with liquid Mercury before Elon White has him shamefully dismissed and sent home. Sean O’Malley, after some thought, decides to theme his muffins around Danu, Irish Mother Goddess of Earth and Fertility and, consequently, as a former member of the fairy folk, his own mother. His muffins taste of disappointment and infrequent phone calls.

Betty makes double chocolate muffins with enchanted rings that hover around them in an ever changing rotation of neon greens and yellows. Sam Brown makes a few texts to some friends and, to go with his Rhubarb- Cardamom muffins, presents the judges with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra, who play Gustav Holst’s Jupiter movement from his Planets Suite. Jeff Londing cries as the music swells; the Union soldiers remove their caps and remember their fallen brethren. Raleigh Simone shrugs and says she doesn’t care much for Cardamom.

Adonis Letapolis rages to anyone who will listen about the petulant Romans who came from the Greeks, stealing their laws and their Gods and perverting them. Instead of making Mars Muffins, Adonis makes Ares muffins, filled with mint, pistachio and orange, topped with a ginger icing that, when eaten, summons the Greek God of War who slams his spear on the judges table and demands the Centaur be given the prize. After the episode, Ares and Raleigh consort, producing a Warring Vampire Lord who is sentenced to life in prison for a Ponzi Scheme before he can bring bloody, fanged war upon the world.

Jenalee Wolland, inspired by Venus’ volcanic surface, makes dark-chocolate cayenne volcano muffins. They explode with fiery red delight, causing a stir of wonderment and fascination among the Union Soldiers. For the remaining year of the Civil War, the 54th Ohio keep cayenne muffins in their pockets.

Richard Rand finds himself out of ideas for a Uranus muffin and picks a fight with a few of the Union soldiers who keep heckling him. In the last minute, he pulls of a beautiful Carrot Cake and Prune muffin, guaranteed according to Richard, “to make Uranus work.” The crowd groans.

By the end, Bianca Peteron is sent home. Her corn muffins, Londing explains, were dry and lacked cohesiveness with the subject. Before she can be interviewed, Confederate Cavalry storm the building, resulting in a bloody engagement under the set of Samurai statues, their swords gleaming in the flashes of gunpowder and smoke. Bianca is eliminated.

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 2”

Episode 2:  Slow Rolls With Cakes under their belts, the contestants must move on without beloved fellow baker Dolly as they try to master a smaller, more flavor packed challenge: rolls!

 

Elon White and a puppet version of himself stand in front of an oil painting of King Henry VIII. Elon’s puppet dryly notes that the contestants must bake enough rolls to satisfy the wife-killing King, while Elon slowly gorges a puppet Anne Boleyn with rolls until she is too fat to move.

Jenalee starts a batter for Kaiser Rolls before realizing she has made a life size ice sculpture of Barack Obama instead. She grits her teeth and starts over, the ice President slowly melting under the heat of the ovens. Sunshine pours through the skylight; surfer babes and beach dudes prowl the outside of the building, drawn from the beach to the sweet smell of rolls. Sam Brown makes his dinner rolls in the shape of tiny footballs, wrapping them in bacon to make them ‘pigskins.’ Betty cracks eggs, shells splintering all over and embedding themselves in her skin. She will need surgery by the end of the episode to remove them all. Jeff Londing paces about, checking in with contestants, stealing six bananas from Sean O’Malley, who must replace them in his Peanut Butter Banana Bun-Buns with whole coconuts. Amir Usif and Bianca Peteron both make cinnamon buns. Richard Rand of Australia finishes quickly, making perfect fruit rolls out of dried apples and figs. He starts next on a crumble for the top. Soon his hands are perfect spheres of butter and oats and cinnamon; the producer must lick through the crumble so that Rand, his face wet with nervous tears, may use his hands again. Adonis Letapolis makes traditional Greek Easter Rolls which he infuses with centaur magic, guaranteeing a perfect consistency.

Elon White’s puppet finishes making love to the engorged puppet of Anne Boleyn before his human counterpart beheads her. Each contestant’s roll is fed to not only Londing and Simone, but the portrait of Henry VIII as well. He exclaims with glee over Rand and Brown’s rolls before denouncing them as “Rats, unfit detestable excess of human waste, traitors to the crown.” The rest of his anti-American and anti-Australian rant is edited from the episode. It is determined that Usif and Peteron must fight to the death, as is customary, because they presented the same dish. As Usif takes a longstaff and Peteron a naginata, the credits begin to roll, robbing the end of the episode from an eliminated contestant. Episode 3 promises to begin with drama.

 

“International Bake Off Season 1 on Netflix, Episode 1”

Episode 1: Cake Off!- Drama unfolds as the newly introduced contestants are put to the test. Poorly baked cakes go home, well baked cakes live to see another day!

 

Elon White, culinary genius and Season 1 host, stands before a group of ten contestants, each from a different part of the world. The kitchen is a large, cylindrical beast; all stainless steel and chrome offset by rustic wooden chef stations. The roof is entirely skylight. Outside, the Miami skyline bleeds a reminder of the 1980s in pinks and neon greens for the camera. Japanese influences flank the walls; bamboo thickets and pagoda molding set around two seven foot suits of Samurai armor.

The action kicks off quickly, as each contestant is given the task of baking a simple Bundt cake. Sam Brown, ex-linebacker for the Chicago Bears and contestant from the USA crushes raspberries for compote, red juice staining his apron and dying his dark hands an eerie crimson. Jenalee Wolland of Britain preserves lemon, mummifying it before topping her Bundt with slim pieces and a lime meringue. White counts the clock down like Orson Wells while dangerous horns score an uneasy overture. The contestant from Jamaica, a muscular, rail thin woman named Betty, deconstructs her Bundt with a machete. Richard Rand of Australia sings a traditional lullaby to his Cake, smiling wide as it wobbles with each lilt of the natural minor scale. Amir Usif, representing Turkey, crushes pistachios individually with a hammer twice the size of a normal man. “Ouch!” each one screams, but Usif continues to harvest with a deaf ear.

Sean O’Malley, the contestant from Ireland, pays tribute to his roots. He was born one of the fairy folk; a beautiful fairy, her hair waterfalls of gold and red, twirling, dancing in the forest around long forgotten rocks marked by Catholics who, despite praying to the Holy Trinity, knew better than to disturb the world of the fairies. Formerly Slethá, now Sean, bakes a white cake he sprinkles with copious amounts of magic and, for a touch of zing, cinnamon. Adonis Letapolis, a centaur from Greece, makes a giant Baklava cake, his syrup mixture of honey, water, sugar, cinnamon and lemon boiling in cauldron. Bianca Peterón, proudly carrying Spain on her back, liquefies the pure essence of citrus, distilling it to two eye drops worth of liquid that she adds to her long, flat cake that soaks in Rum and is topped with a coconut meringue.

The judges come out, recently outed Vampire Raleigh Simone, her hair four shades of blue and pink, her fangs proudly displayed, and the enormously fat Jeff Londing, former chef turned critic turned exploiter of the free food these sorts of competitions give out. They taste each cake, Londing remarking that Betty’s has “A really nice bake and lovely consistency.” Simone flirts shamelessly with Adonis Letapolis, picking his cake as ‘Gold Level’ for the week even though, as White and Londing point out, it was technically not a cake. Rand almost goes home, but, after deliberation and a pause for a commercial break (that never materializes because the show was made not for television but for online binge watching ‘fill your craving with watching cake instead of eating cake!), and a dramatic gong solo, Rand survives for one more round while the contestant from Japan, a humble Shiba Inu named Dolly, is sent home.

The Gravity of Ken Sulane- Part II (Short Story)

“They all have a story or a grudge or a debt,” Ken said, locking eyes with the god. “They’ve always come, my whole life, so forgive me if I’m a little sick trying to make up for something someone who lived hundreds or thousands of years before I did.”

“You don’t understand, Ken. This is coming for you regardless of you accept or not. You don’t need to accept or decline, it will affect you either way. You see, back-”

The large, red bearded man cut Apollo off. “Oh, so you’ve accepted his quest then?” he accent was thick, not quite Irish, not quite Scottish, not quite easy to understand.

“No, I haven’t Brian.” Ken said wearily.

“Lad, how could you?” Brian whined.

“How could I what? I haven’t done anything!” Ken protested.

“The god said.” The giant Samurai noted, stepping forward. “If you accept to right the wrongs he brings you, please, reconsider my plea-“

“There is still our matter to be settled!” The Renaissance man spat. “Ken, your great ancestor, Antonio Di Siricusa is the true artist and creator of the works attributed to Michelangelo!”

“I’m sure he’s not.” Ken said testily.

He is not allowed to go anywhere!” All twelve of the shadowy figures that hung from the ceiling said in a wavering, robotic voice. “You must pay for the sins of Huang Zhiyuan,. The feeble tendrils of your life belong to us. Ken Sulane, we are owed a soul that must come to the netherworld, at the last gate at the base of the Mountain of Spirits.”

“Yeah, I’m not going. I’m never going with you guys, so you can stop waiting.”

It is not a choice, Ken. You will come.”

“I won’t.”

You will.

“You cannot take him,” said the woman that had been talking with the Renaissance man. “Kenneth, you must come and save me. I have awaited the prophecy to be fulfilled, for a man of your bloodline to rescue me from my imprisonment.”

You will come.

“Leave him be!” she implored the floating figures.

“Hilda,” Ken said. “We’ve talked about this. It’s 2016, you are a strong woman and you don’t need a man to rescue you! Also, you’re dead.”

The Union soldier spoke up, his wife grasping his arm. “Ken, you promised you’d help find our lost war treasures. As your great-great-great grandfather, I think I take precedent.” Ken’s great-great-great grandmother nodded frantically.

“YOU MUST HELP FIND MY TREASURE THAT YOUR ANCESTOR, THE FIERCE AND BEAUTIFUL TSUWEI, HID FOR ME,” the Dragon roared from outside.

“We would like our treasure!” Great-great-great-Grandfather protested.

“I WOULD ALSO LIKE HIS TREASURE,” the Dragon yelled.

Ken’s great-great-great-Grandmother harrumphed loudly.

From the middle of the room, a dark man faded in from nothingness. He was a warrior, armed with a thin, ovular shield and a pointed, sharpened spear.

He was so tall that he needed to kneel to speak with the sitting Ken, which he did, opening his arms wide.

“I implore you again, many-great grandson of mine, to find my brother, your many-great uncle, my assassin, the one who took from me my life with poison, and regain our rightful throne.”

Ken sighed. “I’m sorry man, but like I keep saying, I really think you have the wrong Ken Sulane.”

Apollo tried again. “Ken, I apologize for what is clearly an ongoing problem with your bloodline, but-”

Ken laughed, unhinged a little. He stood and walked to the bed, where he scratched Wixon behind the ears. “It’s more than a problem, Apollo. You want to talk about my bloodline? Thanks to all of you, I can trace every movement of every ancestor I ever had! Who they screwed over, who they screwed, what they made or lost, what insane magical beast they befriended or made an enemy of. My father’s ancestors came from Greece, wise politicians and rumored to be of a god’s bloodline, someone I’m sure you knew Apollo. Probably someone who did something you’re here to warn me about! Right? Well they moved from Greece to Italy, to the Greek colony of Syracuse, later Siracusa during the time of the Romans, where they stayed for many, many years before moving North to Ireland sometime in the 1600s. There they met the other component of my father’s ancestry, as evidenced by Big Red Brian over here. They narrowly avoided the famine of the 19th century by about 80 years, moving around 1800 to America where they’ve stayed ever since.”

Apollo’s patience was wearing thin. “Yes, Ken.”

“Then my mother? She traces her family back to China, to the earliest known peoples there. Apparently someone pissed off a bunch of ancient floating shadows so they won’t leave me alone, as well as hid a Dragon’s treasure for him.”

“HELLO,” the Dragon said again, more cheerily this time.

“In the meantime they moved to Japan. I know this because I get more ghostly kitsune spirits than anyone should have, not to mention Mr. Samurai the Giant there. They moved back to China at some point and then from there to California during the Gold Rush. In between that, my ancestors really got around. If you’ll notice there is a fully armored Dragoon on horseback outside that has sworn to protect me and my kin from any harm as long as I live, the ghost of a Great Dane, who’s purpose here is still unknown to me and this fucking gnome who will not stop snoring and…. just wake the fuck up! Come on seriously, who sleeps this long WAKE UP!!! So no. No, no no Apollo, I really don’t care. I cannot add another. I am full. No Vacancy. Please. Please I beg you to leave me alone.

I’ve never had a normal life. I never had a normal childhood. When I was 13, a Pegasus came to me and told me I, by proxy of my ancestors, was his true owner. He tried to follow me everywhere and at first, it was amazing. How many other kids have a flying horse? He, by the way, was the one that told me you’re the last of the Greek gods. We had fun for a few years, but after everything, after all the people and creatures that came to me, I couldn’t stand to look at him anymore. It made me feel sick, like I made a Taco Bell run at 4 in the morning. A few months ago I sent him to the moon. I told him I needed a very important rock and off he went, flying higher and higher until he was just a small white speck. I sent a fucking horse to space, Apollo, because I am so burnt out on hearing about my ancestors and whatever it is that they did. I don’t even know if that Pegasus can breathe in space! There could be a dead flying horse on the moon for all we know. I can’t handle it anymore, Apollo. I am only human and I just do not have the capacity for this. ”

“Ken,” Apollo said, and it was not a question or even simply his name, but a command ushered into the world for the first time where it cemented itself as a force, hanging in the air for a moment, tense and sharp. “You do not have a choice.”

Apollo began to explain, but he barely moved an inch before the breeze in the windows faded and Ken’s room systematically, inch by inch, blackened. Ken and his nuisances remained as a large, motley group, floating in the nothingness of a blank, black canvas.

“Shit. What is this?” Ken asked.

Apollo shook his head. “What I tried to warn you of.”

There was nothing all around Ken, but he still felt as though he were standing on solid ground. His brain, however, screamed to any synapses that would listen that Ken was falling, that there was nothing beneath him and he should currently be panicking; finding any way to survive a fall into an abyss that apparently did not exist. Ken felt a sort of dizzying seasickness. He closed his eyes, but found he couldn’t tell if they were open or closed. The darkness seemed to contract for a brutal moment before expanding. Ken opened his eyes and saw earth, the size of a marble, hanging in the sky. It grew as he watched it, until he found himself standing under the Earth, slowly spinning on its axis like an exhibit in a dark, forgotten room of a museum.

It was different than it looked in pictures, in part because Ken’s brain couldn’t quite process that he was staring at the planet he should be standing on and in part because of the giant, robed Lizard Man holding the earth on its shoulders. The Moon hung in the sky near the Lizard Man’s head; a ghostly after-image of the Earth.

The Lizard Man peered down through a pair of golden slits Ken supposed were eyes. Its tongue flitted through the air like a dragonfly. It locked eyes with Ken and from somewhere deep inside, rumbled a growl that rumbled its way to a roar.

“Thermistocles!” it shouted at Ken.

“No, Vrssa, this is not Thermistocles,” Apollo called to the creature.

“Thermistocles!” it shouted again. “The time has come for you to fulfill your promise to me. It is your turn to hold the earth!”

“What happened to Atlas?” Ken asked.

“Your ancestor, Thermistocles, was tasked by Hera with killing Atlas,” Apollo explained. “But he needed someone to hold the earth in the meantime. He convinced Vrssa, a Lizard man from the Nile delta to hold the earth while he disposed of the Titan. In return, he would give Vrssa Ra’s golden scepter.”

“Let me guess,’ Ken said. “He never had a scepter. He told scaley-face over there that he’d come back and never did. And Atlas probably paid him off not to kill him.”

“Yes,” Apollo said, impressed.

“Why don’t you ask Heracles!?” Ken called to the serpent.

“Don’t-“ Apollo began, but Vrssa let out a primal, guttural roar.

“YOU DARE SPEAK TO ME OF HERACLES?”

“Heracles killed Vrssa’s wife,” Apollo explained.

“Okay, sorry! I’m sorry!” Ken said. “Listen, Vespa,”

“Vrssa,” Apollo corrected.

“Whatever. I’m not Thermistocles. My name is Ken and I’m not going to hold the Earth for you.”

“You look like Thermistocles!” Vrssa growled, squinting so much that its eye slits almost closed.

“No, Thermistocles was my great ancestor. But I have no plans of making up for whatever it is he promised you. See these people with me? They’re waiting for the same thing you are, but it’s never going to happen.”

“Thermistocles or not, it is your responsibility to take the earth from me and give me the Scepter of Ra.”

“It is not my responsibility!” Ken bristled. “Vrssa, no one has to hold the world! No one, including you, has to hold the Earth because there is a thing called gravity! Just put the earth down!”

“I cannot!” Vrssa cried. “If I put it down, it will tumble out of the sky and I will lose my hordes of gold, my salt mines, and the favor of Set!”

“I can’t imagine any of those things are there anymore,” Ken muttered.

“If you do not take the earth from me, as was promised, and give me the Scepter of Ra, as was also promised, I will disembowel you and feed you your organs in small pieces before using your skull to pick your coagulated blood from my teeth.”

“Oh,” Ken said.

“Um,” Apollo said.

“EW,” the Dragon said.

Apollo cleared his throat. “Vrssa, please, there is no need for that. Ken will take the earth from you.”

“The fuck I will!” Ken cried. “No one needs to hold the earth! There is gravity to hold it up!” Ken waved his arms in the air emphatically, moving from person to person in an unwavering, non-determined zigzag. “I don’t understand why that is hard concept. I don’t understand why you all want to live in the past, to live forever focused on one deed or one act a long dead ancestor of mine may or may not have perpetrated. It’s not the past anymore, there is no treasure and no debts to be settled, there is no need for gods and warriors! There is gravity! No matter what, there is always gravity! But none of you know this! No one bothers to find anything out about now, about what governs the world now. You can’t keep yourselves in the past and drag me back there with you. Feel the gravity! Okay, maybe not here because we seem to be standing in the atmosphere, but you know what I mean.

I will not take the earth. I will not, under any circumstance, avenge anything or anyone, I will not find treasure or travel to the gate of the dead or the valley of the lost or whatever other depressing fucked place you want me to go to!  I won’t put up with any more bullshit from the past!” Ken turned, locking eyes with Apollo. “Is that clear!?”

Apollo did not say anything, but kept his eyes locked with Ken’s.

“HE MAKES THIS SPEECH ONCE A MONTH. YOU DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO HIM IF YOU DON’T WANT.” The Dragon said to Apollo, attempting to whisper but failing.

“I never do,” The Renaissance man said. The others murmured their agreements. The ghost of the Great Dane barked once. The gnome still snored.

Ken sighed.

“Fine. I’ll take the earth.”

“Ken, you can’t.” Brian said. “It will crush you. You’re only mortal.”

Ken stepped forward, growing in size with each step he took towards Vrssa. By the time he reached the Lizard Man, he towered over the retile, towering enough to take the earth from the Lizard and rest it atop his shoulders. Apollo’s mouth hung open. The others gasped as the Dragon shouted “WOW!”

Vrssa grew smaller as he walked away from the earth, rolling his shoulders and cracking his joints. He grinned a reptilian grin; all teeth and pencil tongue, before jumping from space back to the earth, presumably to find no gold, no salt mines and no crocodile god Set. Ken stood, massive and glowing, no strain on his face as he held the earth, a blue and green jewel that spun ever so slowly. Continents brushed Ken’s back, his hair touched mountains and oceans. From somewhere on the moon, Apollo swore he heard a horse whinny.

“Ken,” Apollo said. “Are you okay?”

Ken did not respond, but instead locked eyes with the god and, in one breathless movement, dropped the earth.

No one moved.

The earth did nothing. It hung in space happily, spinning slowly, undisturbed and content to continue its existence with or without someone holding it.

Ken shrunk back to his normal size as the others admired the earth spin. Ken joined them, space slowly fading away as Ken’s room became their state of existence.

“I told you,” Ken said.  “Gravity.”

Wixon barked happily upon finding herself back in her room. The others seemed unfazed by what had happened, as they resumed earlier conversations and activities.

Ken sat on the bed next to Wixon. “I told you, we don’t need anyone to hold up the earth anymore. We’ve figured out those inexplicable fears we used to have. We don’t need debts and vengeance and spirits. We have gravity.”

He paused, staring at the floor.

After a long time, he looked up and examined Apollo with a dense concentration. “We don’t need you,” he said finally.

It stung the god, Ken could see it in his face.

“I’ll leave you.” Apollo said. Ken made a fist and pounded his leg just once, grinding his teeth.

“Still,” he said before Apollo could move. The god eyed him with a seasoned wariness. “I guess I should have listened to you from the start instead of complaining. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” the god said, his eyes like bright suns.

“Come back if you’d like, preferably without a Lizard Man.” Ken said. Apollo nodded and, like the last rays of sunset, disappeared from the room. Ken could see the light outside that had not entirely faded.

Apollo stood outside Ken’s window, a Dragoon o horseback eying him suspiciously, the great Dragon floating in the sky like a fiery kite. He heard Ken pluck a few chords on his guitar.

Ken’s voice carried outside the window in the summer sunset. He sang:

“And though I sleep tonight without my crown

Gravity could not weigh me down.”

Short Story- The Diary of Jonathan P. Willowbuss

The Diary of Jonathan P. Willowbuss

Day 1: I have resolved to set sail for the new world.  England has grown tiresome, and so I shall leave her behind. Like a woman I no longer love and who no longer loves me, she will be behind me. That is to say that the general direction I will be facing will be forward, and England will be at my back and therefore behind.

Father says I cannot be a writer but I challenge that!

I cannot think here anymore. Here the foggy nights cloud my mind over and I feel weak. I hear the new world is a splendid place full of sun and palms. I ache for warmth in the cold autumn.

That was pretty descriptive, I don’t know why father detests my writing so.

Julia, the girl I adore, shares father’s opinion. She loves me, I know she does, but she cannot see the value in the life of a writer.

I shall embark this afternoon. I keep this diary as a means of collecting stories that flock to me during my time in the new world. Someday, I will write a brilliant narrative based on these tales. I sip my morning tea with anticipation. The journey will be difficult, but I am ready. I am ready to prove myself. I will show father I am a man. I will prove to Julia that I am to be a worthy husband.

Day 2: I vomited over the side of the ship and the crew laughed at me. Our ship is The Gooseneck, named after the clam. I thought it was a silly name for a ship and suggested The Moon Lightning but the crew only laughed at me again. It is a spice ship, sent to the new world to collect the various peppers and sugars, just as I set off to collect peppers and sugars to add the flavours of spicy and sweet to my stories. All this thinking of flavours has upset my stomach again. I must relieve myself once again.

Day 4: Tonight at dinner I read a poem to the crew. I think they enjoyed it, although one or two sniggered. They were particularly fond of my comparing them to Albatross and me to gentle whale; admiring them from afar, wistfully beneath the sea.  Cracking good poem if I do say so myself.

Day 5: I saw Dolphins! They were beautiful creatures. I first mistook them for sharks and attempted to shoot them when Leon, the Captain, wrenched the gun from my hands and informed me they were the harmless jesterss of the sea.  Swim you jolly fools! Swim!

Day 7: Found the crew reading my poems and laughing at me. Not very nice of them. I am upset and have retired to my quarters for the remainder of the voyage.

Also, I must say their impression of me is nothing like me. I do not sound like a woman nor do I have ‘little chicken-boy legs’. Ingrates.

Day 23: I have not made an entry for some time, but I have been busy absorbing the wonders the New World has to offer. It is perpetually warm here and when it rains it is like the sky has built up an ocean that it needs to let out. I have been living on a tiny settlement next to a native village by the sea. Their habits are extraordinary and for an Englishman such as myself, refreshingly different. For example, every day Large Wilson, their chief, takes four men to go fishing for the night’s meal. Today, they caught many large fish and there was much rejoicing. I call the chief Large Wilson because I could not understand the chief’s native tongue when he introduced himself to me. Needing a way to refer to him, I nicknamed him Large Wilson, due to both his height and his uncanny albeit darker skinned resemblance to Wilson Pendergast, my riding companion. I have written Wilson already to inform him of his doppelganger here in the New World.

I have also written Father and Julia, expounding upon the wondrous sights and foods this land has to offer. I shall give my letters to the next ship that sails into port.

Day 25: I have taken on the role of designated water carrier, but the small stream where we get our water has begun to dry up. The waterfall has grown smaller and smaller. The natives seem worried but I keep assuring them there is an ocean full of water to drink!

Day 26: We have begun to ration water. Already, the diarrhea has come to our small village. Resolved to fix the problem, I collected water from the sea today instead of the waterfall. When Large Wilson drank it, he vomited and smacked me. ‘No water from sea!’ he exclaimed. I told him there was no reason to be so picky and drank a large gulp myself.

Ocean water is not drinkable! It burned like judgment day had descended upon my throat. I dry heaved for a quarter hour. The tribe seems very upset with me.

Day 27: It turns out the waterfall I believed to be drying up was only a small one on the wrong side of the small island we call home. It appears I was following my hand drawn map incorrectly. Large Wilson was displeased when I showed him the dried up little waterfall.

‘Not this!’ he exclaimed testily. He lead me about a half mile the other direction to a raging waterfall with a deep, clear pool at its base.

‘Here!’ he said.

‘Oh! Splendid. Sorry to worry everyone!’ He only grumbled and walked away.

I must win his respect back in some way…

Day 31: The natives talk in hushed tones of an exquisite visitor due to arrive tomorrow. From what I can gather, he is their God. I have decided in order to win Large Wilson’s respect I must kill this God and take my place as deity to these poor natives. It will be my greatest feat yet.

Day 32: As the Natives waited for their god, I laid in wait inside my hut. When I heard the Chief exchange greetings with this unknown all-powerful deity, I rushed from my hut, brandishing a bucket of ocean water. I believed it to be a toxic substance and therefore a deadly weapon. It certainly tastes the part. Well, as I ran down the beach screaming, I saw the god: A hairy, four legged beast with brown, matted fur and pointed ears. It truly was a noble, majestic creature that tensed as it heard my scream. I threw the ocean water at the creature and held my breath, expecting it to melt or explode or turn into the Devil himself. Instead, the creature merely shook itself off and turned to me. When it began licking my hand, I realized it was an ordinary dog. It seemed to enjoy the water bath and in fact and was very fond of me. I then realized that Large Wilson was in mid-handshake with Lord George Gingham, appointed mayor of this native province and a companion of my father.

The evening was spent catching up, and it was good to see Lord Gingham. I sent my first letters along with another set with his Ship for when he returns home. He promised to deliver them to Father by hand! Sweet fellow. His dog, Yale, was quite happy to see me and spent most of the night licking my hand. I am relieved there was no god. Being a deity sounded quite stressful.

Day 35: I truly have made a fool of myself now. Today, as I went to fetch the water, I came upon one of the native lads in the throngs of battle with a wild pig. Fearing for the boy’s life, I shot the pig. When the crack of my gun faded in to the distance, the boy turned to me furiously.

“You kill my pig!” he screamed at me. I explained that he was in great danger but he was not ready to listen. He threw a rock at my head and stormed off into the forest.

It turns out that young Lupitti, the boy, was fulfilling the tribal right of becoming a man by killing a wild boar. By interfering, I have robbed the boy of his chance to become a man. He has sulked all evening and ate dinner with the women. I feel terrible. I must remedy the situation.

Day 37: Lupitti has taken to wearing ladies garb and throwing rocks at me. To show solidarity, I too spent today wearing ladies clothing. Because of this, the men threw fish innards at me and called me names. I have returned to my normal clothing. I feel bad for Lupitti, but there is only so much fish anus a chap can have thrown his way.

Day 38:A party of Spaniards came to our settlement today. The natives, fearing them, presented them with elaborate gifts so as not to be killed. Or so I assumed. I told Large Wilson that there was no need to worry, that he was under English protection and, may I remind him, that we had thumped the Spanish Armada thoroughly. As I reminded the Spanish Captain of this defeat, he proceeded to pack away his goods. The Spanish, obviously still smarting from their embarrassing defeat, left in a tizzy. Large Wilson smacked my head again and explained that the Spanish were good trade partners. I believe I may have offended them and that they may not come again. Lupitti continues to throw rocks at me.

Day44: I have had a quiet few days until today. As I explored the island a bit, I came across a beautiful gemstone. Returning to the village, I showed the gem to Large Wilson who turned white as a ghost. He told me the precious stone belonged to their rival tribe and that they would surely think we had stolen it.

“Nonsense.” I assured him. “I will simply explain the situation. If there is one thing we English are good at that, it is apologizing for mishaps.”

A few hours later, a large group of rival tribesmen appeared. Their leader wore copper about his person in many places and snarled at us like a tiger. He and Large Wilson exchanged some words for a moment. Large Wilson then approached me and whispered in my ear:

“You may talk. Do not make bad.” He glared at me as I approached the rival chief.

“Oh, great chief!” I began, “There has been a terrible mix up. You see, I found this gem by accident.” I pulled them gem out of my pocket and showed it to the chief. His fellow tribesmen must have taken this as an aggressive act, because within a few seconds swords were drawn and pointed at me. It was at this moment that something in me snapped. My frustration with all my mix-ups loomed large over me and compelled my temper to burst forth like a great sea monster. I pulled my gun out and pointed it at the chief.

“Put down your swords or I will kill this man!” I screamed. Behind me, Large Wilson made frantic disapproving motions in an attempt to stop me. The swordsmen looked to their chief, confused. The chief’s brown eyes seemed to peer into my soul.

“Take it! I demand you take the gem!” I shouted, shoving the stone at the man. I grabbed his hand and thrust the stone into his palm. He looked at it blankly, then back at me. His countenance changed drastically as he smiled wide, laughing raucously. His swordsmen followed, laughing tentatively at first. Soon, everyone was laughing including me. The chief imitated me brandishing my weapon, laughing harder each time they did. After what felt like hours of laughing, the men departed. We breathed a collected sigh of relief and headed back to the village. I had finally done something right.

Day 47: I killed a snake twice as long as a man today. It scared me half to death and advanced upon me, so I shot it. The natives believe I have killed a sacred spirit and spit on me to ward off evil. Lupitti now throws rocks and spits on me. It has been a long day.

Day 50: As I stood by the ocean this evening, I brought my pipe along to see if I can map out a star chart. Smelling my tobacco, Large Wilson, his brother, and his sister’s husband came to me inquiring what as to what it was. I explained the pipe to them and showed them the aged tobacco I had brought with me. They took turns sharing the pipe and, in gratitude, shared some of their home-brewed alcohol with me. I fear I may have become a bit too tipsy and now find myself doodling Julia without her clothing. Ooops. Perhaps I should not have written that. Enclosed is a drawing. Oops.

Image

Day 51: I fear I may have gone too far this time. I woke up early this morning, beating the sun and feeling as though the Grim Reaper was en route to my doorstep. When I stumbled to the latrine to relieve myself, I lit a match to find my way. Unfortunately, I accidentally dropped the lit match into a jug of fermenting alcoholic beverage, which proceeded to explode in flames, burning down the temple and adjoining Shaman’s hut. The poor chap, infuriated at me, blew some sort of powder I believe was made of dried up birds in my face. He keeps cursing me and waving his Shaman wand in my face. To make matters worse, when the fire broke I did not realize I had caused it with a jug of alcohol. Believing the nearest jug to be water, I attempted to douse the flames with it, only spreading the flames and burning down Lupitti’s home. I may have gone too far over the edge today. I hide in my hut, taking no visitors. Large Wilson has already come looking for me three times today. Rocks have been flying all evening. I think Lupitti is waiting for me, possibly to kill me. I wait in fear.

Day 52: I fell asleep in terror last night and awoke this morning on a ship. From what I can gather, the natives paid this particular crew to take me from their village, fearing I was an Omen from their evil gods. Apparently, the crew accepted a small fortune to get rid of me. So I return to England. I will miss my friends in the new world but am glad to be returning home. I can hold my head high knowing my adventures have changed me for the better. I return to Father and Julia a new man: One ready for life’s most challenging moments.

Perhaps I’ll read a poem to the crew.