[Go to Youtube for these three links:
If you do not, you will wake tomorrow morning to find your ears have been replaced with speakers which slowly read through those poems you wrote for fourth grade English class.]
That Chapter With Three Musical Numbers
(Which Really Only Has Two Musical Numbers)
You're sitting at your computer like a complete loser when the Narrator walks in fifteen minutes late with Starbucks.
"Oh hey, guys, sorry it's been a while. Ha, traffic, amiright? But anyway!"
The Narrator pulls out an ancient leather-bound tome and starts flipping through the crinkly pages. "Let's see, let's see... Jack Frost and his sister, no... equestrian rap, no... metaphysical Hermione crack - ha, let's save that for another day... Between Minds - oooh, good one! But we are here for... aha!" The Narrator resettles the book on his/her lap to begin. "The Ugly Barnacle. Let me warn you, folks: this is where it gets weird. We reopen our story in the capital city of the Barnacle Kingdom, where a jolly festival is in full swing and a gypsy man sings a jovial song on a stage in front of a crowd."
"Here it is, the moment you've been waiting for,
"Here it is; you know exactly what's in store!"
The inexplicably attractive gypsy man sang on a bright December day. I mean, I'm not the only one seeing this, am I? Yeah, he's attractive, I can admit that. It doesn't mean anything!
"Now's the time we laugh until our sides grow sore!
"Now's the time we celebrate THE END!"
The crowd cheered. Strumpets cavorted, patricians partied, plebeians part-ayed, testudines raced, and everyone was getting stone drunk off their asses. It was a perfect day for a festival.
"Three thousand years ago in ancient Mayan times,
"The priest looked up and saw all the celestial signs,
"So now we know the world will End in one year's time,
"And so each year we drink our faces off todaaaaaaay!"
Listen, stop giving me flack about my gypsy comment! So I said he was attractive, so what? I mean, you can see he's got good facial structure, works out a bit, coordinates his patterns well – but it doesn't mean anything… SH-SHUT UP!
The gypsy man shouted, "How many of you think The End is really going to happen next December, that the entire cosmos as we know it will End?"
A scattered few people wearing tinfoil hats raised their picket signs and a low murmur of laughter ran through the crowd in response.
"And how many of you can't wait to be here again IN ONE! YEAR'S! TIME!"
The courtyard shook with the rapturous roar that followed and the debauchery restarted with vigor. The gypsy's stage was set up at the center of a vast stone courtyard at the heart of the city at the foot of La Fin Cathedral, because Fate has a sadistic streak. For you see, perched on the roof of the bell tower of the Cathedral, a huddled figure was watching the proceedings with jealous blue eyes. (You know, I always wanted to paint my living room Jealous Blue, but it doesn't match the Racist Periwinkle cushions.)
It was Orca: the Barnacle Kingdom's lost Prince. Orca: the boy cursed to rein destruction over his universe. Orca: the deformed 19-year-old who could play Mousetrap pretty well.
Oh, cool: now he's not a swaddled baby anymore, I can actually describe him. There was just something off about Orca. From the tips of his fingers to the soles of his feet to the corners of his eyes, he emanated an unsettling aura that told you like a swift punch to the gut that what you were looking at was unnatural, disgusting, wrong. Like the Star Wars Holiday Special.
The good Judge of the La Fin Cathedral was always kind to Orca, but he was almost never around. As a boy, he'd tried a couple times to leave the cathedral, but adults would mistake him for a dog, children would burst into tears when they saw him, and presents wrapped in shiny pink bows had the tendency to burst into flame when he was present.
Unlike most abused heroes who channeled their latent insanity by bursting into song, having jolly adventures, and speaking to mice, Orca was genuinely messed up as a result of his childhood neglect. Imagine that!
The one and only person in his world he saw on a regular basis was Ketch, the servant girl of the Cathedral, who had slowly grown past the urge to curse the gods in ancient Akkadian every time she saw him. It was her duty to sweep the cathedral floor in the pre-dawn hours, light the candles, scrub the benches, and, twice a day, bring food up to the lonely bell ringer in the tower.
Do I even need to keep narrating their relationship? They grew up together, he's always had a crush on her but she thinks of him as a brother yada yada yada… I'm betting you're all thinking to yourselves, 'I know where THIS is going!' and raising your eyebrows suggestively at the person next to you. Of course, you would if there were anyone sitting by you, but you're all sitting alone at your respective computers. Some of you may be thinking, "But Narrator, that's not true: I'm not sitting alone! My therapist is sitting right across from me, scribbling swiftly into a spiral notebook as I say this line aloud to no one!" But let me personally assure you that your therapist is not, in fact, real. Tell them this with enough conviction, and sure enough they will disappear into a cloud of smoke and glitter.
What the hell was I talking about.
Right, the story. Tell ya what, how about I just skip over these next few pages... skipping pages, skipping pages... ooh, this looks interesting!
Back down in the square, the hundreds of festival-goers were gathered excitedly around the stage, which was, as before, topped by that attractive gypsy man who gives me happy and confused feelings. But not like before, Orca was onstage and locked into the stocks of a guillotine. Huh. How'd that happen. Oooh, look, the gypsy man's starting to sing again, slowly. How quaint.
"Now let's gather 'round la guillotine... and sing our Guillotine Song.
"Our L-A G-U-I-L-L-O-T-I-N-E Song.
"And if you don't think that we can sing it faster, then you're wrong.
"But it'll help iiiif... you just siiiing... alooonng..."
The crowd was familiar with the song, and everyone hummed in unison, "Bum... bum... buuum!"
Ketch wandered into the crowd, saw Orca about to be beheaded, and muttered under her breath, "Orca you little [DOLPHIN NOISE]," before running off to the Cathedral for help.
The gypsy man then paced on the platform around Orca, his slowly quickening steps creating the beat.
"L-A G-U-I-L-L-O-T-I-N-E Song, L-A G-U-I-L-L-O-T-I-N-E Song,
"And if you don't think that we can sing it faster then you're wrong,
"But it'll help if - you just sing - along."
"Bum - bum - buum!"
Everyone was getting carried away with the beat; its rhythm grew faster and faster so as opposed to a dignified adagio the tempo grew closer akin to an accelerating vivacissimo. Really, bloodthirsty mobs are horrible music theorists.
"L-A G-U-I-L-L-O-T-I-N-E Song! L-A G-U-I-L-L-O-T-I-N-E Song!
"But it'll help if you just sing along!"
"Bum bum bum!"
"LAGUILLOTINE Song LAGUILLOTINE Song
"Butit'llHEEELLLLLP! It'll HEEELLLlp if you just sing aLOOONNNGG!"
Then there was a gnarly electric guitar riff in the background and a newborn baby shed a single tear from sheer beauty, and the gypsy man with a demonic twinkle in his eye pulled the lever on the downbeat. Orca's eyes squeezed shut.
A gasp went through the crowd. But not the delighted 'cool his severed neck is gushing blood on me' gasp, the perturbed 'darn what the hell not cool guys what just happened' gasp.
Orca hesitantly peeked through his eyelids and was pleased to discover he wasn't a head in a basket.
Just as the gypsy man pulled the lever, Ketch had returned, jumped up onstage, and thrust an iron candlestick into the guillotine the moment before it could do the do. Orca was safe, but the candlestick was in mangles and Ketch didn't look forward to telling its candlestick family about its sacrifice.
This little act of bravery made Ketch level up from Orphan Wench to Badass, and she was suddenly wearing a trenchcoat that billowed around her even when there was no wind. Especially when there was no wind.
Damn, things get boring again, so how about we just skip a few more pages. Uhhh, so the Judge gives a little speech about appearances to the mob, who quickly grow bored and start playing Farmville on their iPhones... someone mentions "boo boo keys," whatever the hell those are... Okay, here we go: basically Ketch, reaching the conclusion that near public execution was a good enough reason to get Orca some goddamn help, decided to see some sort of "specialist" who lives in a gypsy caravan by the edge of the woods. Apparently some old gypsy hag named "Mephisto" has garnered quite the reputation for being a sorceress, almost like she were a Witch who had taken a new body or something. Yeah, good going, Ketch, that sounds like a brilliant plan. No way that's going to backfire or anything.
So yeah, she's at the gypsy caravan by the woods in the middle of the night. It's all creepy and [SEAL BARK]: a bunch of nematodes line the worn dirt path leading to the door, cobwebs hang from the caravan's rafters, and somewhere off in the distance can be heard the terrifying call, "leedle leedle leedle lee".
"Come in, come in, my child," an aging feminine voice purred from behind the door.
Ketch took a long, steadying breath, checked her Facebook status, and entered the tiny, colorful caravan.
The source of the voice sat complacent as a cat on a pile of exotically-colored cushions. She was a squid, and a damn old one, too. "We mustn't lurk in doorways. It's rrrude." She rolled her 'r's like a Ukrainian dominatrix. "One might question your… upbringing?" She chuckled knowingly. "Now, then. You're here because you have a thing for this bell ringer fellow. Not that I blame you," she said sarcastically, "he is quite a catch, isn't he?"
"He's more of a brother, really…" Ketch said, but the readers didn't believe her.
Mephisto (cough, The Witch, cough) paid her no heed and started applying lipstick. "Well, angel fish. The solution to Orca's problem isn't simple." She smacked her lips noisily in the mirror. "This isn't a matter of rearranging the face. Orca is cursed, and I can't change that. No, the only way to get what you want is for me to cast a spell to make Orca only appear normal."
"Can you do that?" Ketch said hopefully.
"My dear, sweet child." Quiet, rhythmic music started playing out of nowhere because REASONS. "That's what I do. It's what I live for. To help unfortunate bottomdwellers, like yourself. Poor souls with no one else to turn to."
"I admit that in the past I've been a nasty," she sang.
"They weren't kidding when they called me – well, a witch.
"But you'll find that nowadays
"I've mended all my ways,
"Repented, seen the light, and made a switch.
She waved her arms over her black cauldron and it snapped open, spewing out luminescent smoke.
"Oh," Ketch squeaked, "a-are we singing now? I don't really know the lyrics."
The Witch ignored her and sang, "And I fortunately know a little magic;
"It's a talent that I always have possessed.
"And dear lady – please don't laugh – I use it on behalf
"Of the miserable, the lonely, and depressed," She half-turned her face and muttered to herself, "Pathetic." Out of the cauldron, two miniature figures of smoke appeared: a scrawny man and a chubby woman.
"Poor unfortunate souls,
"In pain, in need." She gestured to the woman and then to the man, "This one longing to be thinner, that one wants to get the girl, and do I help them?" With a snap of her fingers, the male figure transformed into a hunk and she into a picture of loveliness. The figures smiled and flew into each other's arms. "Yes, indeed."
"Those poor unfortunate souls,
"So sad, so true.
"They come flocking to my cauldron
"Crying, 'Spells, Mephisto, please!'
"And I help them!
"Yes I do."
"Now it's happened once or twice," she held out her hand to the pair as if to accept money, but they shook their heads helplessly.
"Someone couldn't pay the price,
"And I'm afraid I had to rake 'em 'cross the coals." With a violent clawing motion of her hand, they morphed into nematodes similar to the ones lining the walkway out front.
"Yes, I've had the odd complaint, but on the whole I've been a saint!
"To those poor unfortunate soooouuuuuls!"
She ceased singing to grab Ketch by the shoulder and start speaking feverishly. "Now, here's the deal. I will make Orca a spell that will make him appear normal for one year. Got that? One year. Now listen, this is important. Before the stroke of midnight in exactly one year's time you've got to do a little favor for me. That is, you've got to kill someone."
The Witch continued as though Ketch hadn't spoken. "Not just anyone, though. You must find and kill specifically the one man who will cause The End."
"The End? That's just a fairy tale, a conspiracy theory! No sensible person believes it's really going to happen!"
"Now, now, my child, since when have sensible people been in charge?"
Ketch wasn't quite sure what to say to that, so the Witch went on. "If you do kill the man who will cause The End before the stroke of midnight in one year's time, Orca's spell will remain permanently! But, if you don't, the spell will be broken and... you belong… to me. Have we got a deal?"
"Well... I don't know..." Ketch said. "You're pretty obviously evil. Evil as balls. Seriously, if Every Villain Is Lemons then I think you're about to burn down Cave Johnson's house." Ketch spoke slowly. "And if I do this… I'll be a murderer."
The Witch put on an expression of mock surprise. "That's right! But… you'll be a hero... heh heh heh! Life's full of tough choices, isn't it? Heheh!" She pretended to remember something. "Oh! And there is one more thing. We haven't discussed the subject of payment. You can't get something for nothing, you know."
"But I don't have any-"
"I'm not asking much: just a token really, a trifle! You'll never even miss it. What I want from you is: your sight."
"That's right, fish cakes. No more seeing, observing, zip."
"But without my sight, how can I find-"
"You have your smarts! Your quirky spunk! And don't underestimate the importance of," she shook her hips raunchily, "sexual blackmail, haa!" As the music grew to its climatic pace, potions flew around the room in a whirlwind of chaotic frenzy.
"Don't you want to be a hero when you're finished?
"And seeking out a criminal is fun!
"In fact, if all the clues you link,
"You'll find he's closer than you think!
"Just stab him in the back and then you're done!
"COME ON, just do it to make your dearest Orca happy!
"You'll find murder isn't really such a chore!
"And as for when you're blind?
"I assure you, you won't mind;
"You don't want to see what the future has in store!"
A gold scroll and quill snapped into existence before Ketch's eyes. Obviously as an orphan wench she couldn't read or write, but she still knew what that blank line at the bottom of the parchment meant.
"COME ON, you poor unfortunate soul!
"Go ahead! Sign the line!
"I'm a very busy woman and I haven't got all day.
"It won't cost much: just your SIGHT!
"Ya poor unfortunate soul!
"It's sad, but true.
"If you want to cross a bridge, my sweet,
"You've got to pay the toll.
"Take a gulp and take a breath
"And go ahead and sign the scroll!
"(After nineteen years, the time is nigh!)
"The boss is on a roolll!
"This POOR. UNFORTUNATE SOOOOUUUUUL!"
With a slash of her hand, Ketch grabbed the golden quill like a butcher's knife and drew a slanted 'X' on the signature line. The witch smiled with a mouth full of pointed teeth, and when Ketch's eyes were stabbed by a searing flash of white, it was the last thing she saw for a very long time.
[I must not claim to own these copyrights. claim to own these copyrights is the mind-killer. claim to own these copyrights is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my claim to own these copyrights. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the claim to own these copyrights has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.]
[Hey, on a different note: I am 100% certain every single one of you is a Half-Life and Portal fan. And this means that the next thing you're going to do (before you go do something completely irresponsible like studying for that math test you have tomorrow) is go to my profile and start reading my REAL story, Between Minds. Seriously, it's a real story. This page you're reading right now is imaginary, and I'm secretly living in your house watching everything you do. By the way, you should get more PopTarts.]