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If you ever feel like you’re out of control, don’t worry, you always have been.

  • Excerpt from “The Path of The Longstrider”

 

Couple Days Later, Give or Take (Gianthome Time) - Copycat - The Fuck Knows?

A pair of cloud giants battle overhead. Or maybe they’re just clouds.

“What if we ate one of these giant chickens?”

“Then the other giant chickens attack us.” Presto grins savagely. “Let’s do it! We can take ‘em!”

We’ve been in Gianthome for… time. And I’ve been wasted all that time.

“I mean, would we sober up if we ate the chicken?”

Everything in Gianthome is a drug. The water is refreshing, pure, and alcoholic. The mushrooms are delicious, hearty, and hallucinogenic. Veggies get you high. Fruits make you numb. I accidentally swallowed a bug then couldn’t sleep.

I need to come down. Just for a bit. Get my bearings. Evaluate. And I’m ready to fight a flock of giant chickens to make it happen.

Unfortunately, it’s not to be. The 2 ton chicken has slumped over and passed out. Presto lifts its head, then drops it with a clunk. No reaction.

“This rooster has a drug problem.” opines Presto. “Shame. Pretty sure we’d overdose if we ate it.”

“Fuck.” I shake my head. Regret it. I’m dizzy now. “We need to find Cy.”

“Can’t. Bad idea. We gotta stay put. He’ll find us.”

“How? How!!”

Presto looks determined. “I can send a message. We just need to build platforms. And arrange them a certain way.”

Intriguing. I notice some platforms around us. Rough hewn from stone and wood. “Can we use these?”

Presto is enthused. “Yes! They’re perfect! We just need a few more!”

We stumble around a small clearing between huge, giant fucking trees and a raging, torrential river. Honestly, this clearing is the only small thing I’ve seen in Gianthome. We slash down low hanging limbs to make our platforms. The trees loom over us. Judging us. I can see them breathing. Also, I had weird mushrooms for breakfast. I blink a couple times. They stop panting at me. Maybe.

Anyway, we’re fortunate that most of what we need is already here and in place. Wait a minute…

“We didn’t find this stuff! We built it! We’ve been working at this for days!”

Presto gasps. “You’re right! I knew I recognized this stuff from somewhere.”

“Goddamn! We’re so fucked up we don’t know what we’re doing! We gotta find a way to get sober.”

“Nope. Stop.” Presto is unimpressed. “We’re in a loop. Let’s finish what we’re doing and work on sobriety later.”

It’s a solid argument. We get back to messaging. It’s slow going. I’m strong and Presto’s skilled, but I’m dizzy and Presto’s smoking.

“Why are you smoking? We’re already high as zebra tits.”

“Dunno. Need to keep my hands busy.”

“Why don’t you busy them by working with both hands?”

Presto shrugs, stubs his joint. “Fair enough.”

We get to it. By mustering our pathetic focus and using both hands we finally manage to build a couple dozen platforms. After we get them arranged to Presto’s satisfaction, he smiles and gives me a thumbs up.

“One last thing.” He pulls Duke from his bag. The squat skeleton gets cozy and picks a delicate tune on his mandolin.

I listen to the peaceful tunes as Presto beams proprietarily over the table-like platforms. Actually, they’re more than table-like, they are tables. It slowly dawns on me that I’ve seen this arrangement of tables before.

“Did we just re-build your tavern?”

“Yep!” Presto nods enthusiastically.

I’m aghast. “What the fuck?! I thought we were building a summoning spell?”

“It kind of is. Everyone loves going to the pub.”

“GAAHH!!!” I scream. “You motherfucker! We’re supposed to be summoning Cy from another realm!”

“Oh. I don’t know how to do that.” Presto waves away my concerns. “Don’t worry, this is the next best thing. Cy will figure we ended up in Gianthome. When he comes looking, he’ll soon hear of this world famous amazing tavern, and immediately know where to find us. It’s a perfect plan. Problem solved.”

I’m dizzy. I’m frustrated, and drunk, and tired, and angry, and worried, and Presto’s driving me crazy! Also, there’s giant judgemental bats flying overhead. Maybe.

I point to the river of alcoholic water that’s running by the bar. “Who the fuck is going to a tavern is a realm where there’s free booze everywhere!”

“Ahem.” I turn. There’s a satyr slumped at one of our tables. “Could I please get a drink?”

“Absolutely!” Presto cheerily saunters over. Pulls a beer from his bag of holding, and cracks it open. “Here ya go. On the house for our first customer.”

“Thanks.” The satyr takes a long pull. “Yum. This is wonderful.”

I wait impatiently for this farcical interaction to be over so I can scoff at Presto some more, but before they’re done chit-chatting a group of dryads approach our makeshift bar. I get them a couple brews while I’m waiting to scoff, but before I get a chance to verbally eviscerate Presto’s dumb idea, a cloud of pixies swarm me with little acorn cups demanding service.

“Keep your pants on, you’re next.” A wee halfling lass posts up next to Duke and starts playing the pipes. A large group of goblins take over a couple tables. I notice Presto’s still leaning on the bar, talking to the first satyr. “Hey man, get moving! We got customers!”

What follows is one of the weirdest, busiest nights of my life. Tripping balls and slinging suds for an increasingly huge group of increasingly rowdy reprobates, all drawn to the alcoholic oasis of Presto’s Goodtime Tavern by the siren call of laughter and furious folk music.

“Man, I’m beat.” I say to Presto, as we haul another tub of water to the bar. We ran out of Lowgarden ale around the same time the crowd got too big to serve. Now we just fill wash basins by the bar where customers can rinse and refill their old bottles.

I look at the huge pile of gold overflowing from our makeshift cash box. Shake my head. “I gotta admit, this plan seems to be working. I never thought I’d make this much money selling dishwater.”

“What makes it even weirder, is we have no place to spend it.” Presto skips a fat gold coin across the river of booze. “I’m pretty sure we’re the only business in the entire realm.”

“Well dang. That’s disappointing. I thought we were rich.”

“True wealth is the friends you make along the way!” Presto announces. The crowd cheers, guzzles, fires a few fireballs into the air, a couple people barf.

Well. Cy should be able to find us. I guess this is what success looks like.

 

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A note from Doctor Zero

Vali’s sacred text is a scroll of skin, peeled from his own body. The first tattoos read:

I tore this flesh so I’d forget.

But when I forget, it happens again.

What follows is a long list of dark betrayals.


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About the author

Doctor Zero

Bio: Hi! I like reading and writing sci-fi and fantasy.

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