Welcome to Inkbunny...
Allowed ratings
To view member-only content, create an account. ( Hide )
Phobiopolis - Dream IV, part 2
« older newer »
AlexReynard
AlexReynard's Gallery (628)

Phobiopolis - Dream VI

The Birthday Party
phobiopolis_-_epilogue.rtf
Keywords male 879884, female 762769, horse 47173, mouse 39110, bear 34816, raccoon 27077, skunk 24390, death 7350, heart 6662, mutt 3552, police 2098, wizard 1438, novel 1159, medical 1129, vacation 585, progress 310, warthog 279, soundtrack 182, stinger 152, outer space 151, ending 122, george 108, robbery 95, road trip 87, construct 66, credits 35, epilogue 29, phobiopolis 16, zinc 14, junella brox 11, toby deleon 11, piffle 10, hamsterfly 9, pictograph 8, dacryphilia 7, coryza 6, marasmus 6, anasarca 6, ectopia cordis 6, fearsleigher 6, rhinolith 5, scaphis tarrare 5, signpost 5, dysania 4, aldridge 4, stoma 4, lumbago 4, lalochezia 4, scarlatina 4, phlogiston 3, trading post 3, luxy bleeder 3, mass transit 2, the blackdamp 2, dengue 2, drill tank 1, avulsion 1, groundgouger 1, paramedics 1, mirroring 1, sideswapping 1, painlauncher 1, acknowledgements 1
Alex Reynard
presents

~~P~H~O~B~I~O~P~O~L~I~S~~

Dream VI: Morning




Thank you for all the doubts, and for all the questioning,
For all the loneliness, and for all the suffering.
For all the emptiness, and the scars it left inside.
It inspired in me, an impetus to fight.
For all who stood with me, when we stood as one,
Thank you for guiding me, for bringing me home.
And if it seems that I'm obliged to say these words,
I write this in gratitude, the least that you deserve.
-VNV Nation, "Gratitude"




-***-
Epilogue


Many changes happened.

Aided by the Vermillion, the stories spread faster than Scaphis. The Bargeld were eager to trumpet their victory. Tales of, 'I was there!' and 'I fought alongside Suchandsuch!' abounded. The influx of eager Phobiopolans, wanting to come view the scarred countryside and battered city walls, might've replenished Rhinolith's imaginite all by itself. Still, Aldridge had promised Toby. He flew to the city holding a mountainous sphere of the precious iridescent mineral, and a flick of his will exploded it into rain. The Bargeld danced in the streets. (There was not much lingering ill will towards Toby. When the citizens learned that their wealth had been burgled to create the most gargantuan explosion in the history of the world, most of them had to admit, that was pretty fucking metal.)

Aldridge could have also flown the five travelers all the way to Phlogiston. But Toby had a better idea. He thought they deserved a rest first, and he knew the best place in the world for one.

Zinc opted not to overhaul the Fearsleigher. Aside from a new driver's side door, he said she'd earned her scars. When kids on the cliff shouted down that a strange nightmare-driven vehicle was approaching, Scarlatina quickly cobbled together a defense force. Men with bone spears stood at the city limits in apprehension. Then a familiar white mouse emerged from the backseat, still wearing his yellow ribbon. A certain furless kitten burst through the front line, hollering in joy, and leapt to hug his brother with tears in his eyes.

They spent the following week in paradise. Toby was overjoyed to introduce his friends to his family. Kat and Tak's cave was a bit small for everyone to squeeze into, so Toby stayed with Skeeto while the others took beds at the city's lone hotel. The five friends had not shared a more relaxing time since their long-ago afternoon in Coryza. The days were full of boating, swiff games, souvenir shopping, and hang-gliding (Zinc learned the hard way that pride should not keep one from swapping out metal arms with lighter ones). The nights were full of beach parties, dancing, local cuisine, and stargazing. No more thoughts of Scaphis, except for retelling their story to Coral's enthralled classmates. George was asked relentlessly for rides. After a few days, Junella told Toby that chilling out was never really something she was good at. She kept fidgeting, needing something to do. Toby introduced her to the Summer Vacation. Body-looting turned out to be something she had a great knack for, after Skeeto showed her the ropes. The skunk was glad Piffle had trained her to be patient with overly-cheerful chatterboxes. And needless to say, the hamsterfly and furless kitten had lots to gab about together.

Toby also got his hand back to normal. After being told by George about the first experiment, Zinc pitched a rum bottle at his head. Voila.

During the vacation, Toby shared correspondence with both Aldridge and Luxy. The mayor-king wanted to hear every detail about the mouse's journey, to make sure they'd be recorded properly for historical preservation. Toby at first declined, saying he was fine with everyone else taking credit. Luxy wouldn't have it. "Facts demand to be known, Squeak. Kiss your humbleness goodbye and welcome to celebrity. It's the best catastrophe you'll ever enjoy." Toby winced, but figured it couldn't be any worse than fighting a tyrant queen. He and the others all provided their memories. George proved invaluable for this, staying up all night while the others slept, relating endless accurate details to equally-tireless Vermillion. Concurrently, Aldridge let Toby know that his hermit act was over. The wizard-angel could no longer deny that his capacity to do good demanded he make use of it. Based on a suggestion from Zinc, his first mission was the painstaking rescue of the victims of Dysphoria, via wings and harpoon. Rebecca set up a hospital on the underside of the mountain and became a full-time nurse. Some of her patients even woke up. One debatably-lucky fellow did so instantly once he was in Aldridge's arms, having somehow survived for years burning all his memory to fuel sheer denial.

When it was time for the travelers to move on, all of Scarlatina came out to wish them well. There was cheering and singing. A multitude of hugs. George was buried alive in flower garlands. It was much easier for Tak, Kat and Skeeto to say goodbye to Toby this time. For one, he wasn't leaving under the dark cloud of a suicidal quest. And they knew he'd always have a home waiting for him here. As Coral hugged them close, he told them he thought it was inevitable he'd come back someday permanently. But for now, Toby still had things to do.

His friends were surprised when he asked that their long drive home start with Dysania. "I thought you never wanted to smell that place again," Piffle said. But Toby had a hunch. They also had a bulging trunkful of imaginite, so a new air conditioning system kept the soap stench out. And before the first day in the desert was through, George spotted a speck on the horizon. With a cart.

They met one another in silence. An apology was made. Actually, L'roon fell to his many knees and outright groveled. The merchant babbled out reasons and regrets to a mouse who remained completely silent. When L'roon dared look up, he saw it was because Toby was stifling giggles. "'I'm sorry' was plenty," Toby said. The merchant stood up straight, brushed the powder from his shirt, and pretended to be outraged at having wasted so much breath. Bygones were made bygones. Knickknacks were purchased.

They continued on to Lalochezia. The first change Toby noticed was the complete absence of refugees. With Papilloma freed, they all had homes to return to. Secondly, the market town was recovering splendidly. There were twice the customers of Toby's first visit. And a hell of a lot of them wanted autographs. The quintet spent the whole day browsing, people-watching, and being watched by people. Junella bought a new welding backpack. Piffle had her caricature drawn. Zinc walked around carrying a fried biteranodon drumstick as big as a stop sign. Toby had planned to introduce his friends to Poubelle & After's diner, but that was not to be. Instead he found an empty lot and a large placard with a RB&WB logo: Come Visit Our New Location In Ectopia Cordis! Mention This Sign For A Free Slice Of Pie! Toby was more than okay with having to wait a while longer to see them again. He was also happy to re-encounter Chorizo. The young 'roo guided them around, showing off his favorite vendors and hangouts, plus introducing his whole gang (As it turned out, they were all named after Mexican foodstuffs). Madame Tif Tif had moved back to her previous location, and had been making a killing selling mementos of the famous Tent Town Bonecuddy Battle. Photographs, weaponry, clay impressions of hoofprints, and actual shards of burnt bone. She made George pose for photos for two solid hours.

After a mediocre night's sleep in a crowded hostel, the quintet headed for the tub stations. There followed an enjoyable romp through Marasmus, killing the living daylights out of constructs. The travelers had planned to spend another sleepover with Gilla-Gilla, but upon arrival, his house was empty again. But the traps were definitely active this time, as a luckless test hot dog's hair-trigger carbonizing attested to. There was a note on the screen door in his typical terse style: "Luxy's hired me for a project. Serious bank. Leave the stuff on the table. We'll catch up sometime, fam. GG."

"Then let's head to EC," Toby said (after leaving the stuff on the table).

The rest of the drive was a blast. They'd all survived the worst the world had to offer, so Phobiopolis' mundane horrors were now a breeze to deal with. The travelers took turns pedaling the gatling gun, lobbing grenades, pumping shotguns, and hammering skulls, laughing all the way. They took their sweet time, detouring often to get out and have fun. They went ice skating and dodged frozen piranhas. They roasted meat and marshmallows over starlit campfires. They marveled at the sheer amount of things Piffle got herself killed and transformed by. They applauded Junella when she managed to perfectly bisect a pouncing cattacuda, nose to tail. They shaved the Cold Coven for snowcones. They enlarged themselves en masses to climb the columns in Lumbago and terrorize the local pigeons. They cheered on George as he crossed the freeway at mach speed, simply outrunning its various beasties. They grew to love one another as a genuine family, and an unstoppable team.

Ectopia Cordis was a whirlwind. Not only was the clash at Rhinolith the talk of the town, but Aldridge had passed on Toby's theories about the nature of the world and its constructs, which set the scientific community ablaze. While scholars debated, entrepreneurs pounced. A thriving industry sprang up overnight: tamed-to-order personal parasomnic pets. Bounty hunters were dispatched to all corners of Phobiopolis, capturing constructs and bringing them to EC for rehabilitation by burial. The demand was high, with everyone wanting one before their neighbors. Researchers were scrambling to discover faster methods of conferring sentience. Luxy himself spearheaded the effort, commissioning Gilla-Gilla for a bonded pair of convorines. "I want them to still be a bit vicious, for a challenge," he said in an interview. "I want to stand astride both of them, reins in hand, galloping across the plains. And teach them to call me Daddy."

Toby and his friends were themselves interviewed quite frequently (Jamais had much nicer things to say about him this time.) When they weren't being hounded for photos or duels, they explored as much of the cylindrical city as it had to offer. Food, drinks, violence, nightlife, dancing, and danger. Junella and Zinc stopped by the former home of Julius Ounce to inform his family that, better late than never, he had been recovered from Dysphoria. They handed over photos Rebecca had taken of him sleeping. There were many happy tears. All rewards were refused.

On their second day, the five were summoned to Bigwheel Forty-Eight where Rippingbean & Woofingbutter welcomed them warmly. They begged the travelers for an endorsement contract. The group all agreed they couldn't stay in town indefinitely, but a days' photoshoot was fine. Kay and Kaye had them modeling all sorts of outfits and gear, and told Toby they'd been selling oodles of blue vests lately. Plus white scarves, sleeveless jackets, and pink safari outfits.

In payment for the promotional materials, Junella and Zinc asked for three days' unlimited use of the downstairs garage. RB&WB agreed immediately, only requesting that, whatever they worked on, could tickets be sold for customers to watch? "Sure, we'll give 'em a show," Junella promised. After an absolutely lovely breakfast (and free pie) at the new nearby diner, the skunk, the mutt, and the stallion got to work on a new vehicle. Luxy had commissioned another project, you see. Arrangements had been made en route. The raccoon had been inspired by something he'd seen at Aldridge's house, and wondered if Toby & Pals would help him forge it into reality. All expenses paid, of course.

After a tearful goodbye, the Fearsleigher was given a permanent home at Ectopia Cordis' foremost historical museum, The Agglomeration. Hundreds of kids and visitors would get to gawk at her battle scars, read her story, and sit in her seats. Toy models (with pop-out George) were already the hottest selling item in the gift shop. Toby didn't know how to feel about seeing himself as an action figure.

Junella, Zinc, and George spent most of the following days bending metal and imaginite to their will. They collaborated with Andy on design, abused the limits of the garage's inventory, and tossed grins to fellow gearheads in the roped-off audience. With those three fully occupied, this left Toby and Piffle free to go full-on tourist and geek out at all the typical out-of-towner attractions. They finally got to spend a day at Luxyland ("Where All Our Rides Have A 20% Chance Of Death!").

By now, Toby had noticed a shift in the zeitgeist. It was present in Lalochezia, but it wasn't until now that he was able to put words to it. The stories spread by Luxy and the Bargeld had been having an effect. They were stunned to hear of accomplishments that had been previously thought impossible. People wanted to see these places where a ragtag army had pushed back against the terror of the Plastic Storm. And though it was nothing concrete Toby could point to, he felt like, in a way, Phobiopolans were experiencing something similar to the epiphany he'd had in Poubelle & After's. A shift in how they viewed the familiar. A thought that, maybe their world had been grinding through a century-long stagnation, and now it had been jump-started again. The old wars had been terrible, but they had also been a time of exploration and discovery. Ever since, Phobiopolis had become a place to run to shelter and lock the doors; to huddle close and hope to survive the night. But maybe it didn't have to be. Maybe there were sights and places and people out there worth the risk of stepping out the door. Maybe the wilderness was conquerable. Maybe life was more than a misery to be endured. Toby acknowledged that he might have just been seeing what he hoped was true. He was still too modest to believe he could be such an inspiration to an entire world. But one time, he'd passed a neighborhood where little kids were play-fighting a friend in a Scaphis mask, wielding toy hammers and swords.

Junella, Zinc, and George didn't even need three days to finish their work. With much fanfare, they rolled out a truly intimidating beast of a drill tank. Trapezoidal treads as tall as monster truck tires. A bit that looked like Hell's largest pinecone. NASA booster rockets on the back. And a new home up top for the brass gatling gun (the museum used a mockup for the Fearsleigher). Another Cyrus Tear powered the drill, but George was the main power plant. He wouldn't have had it any other way. Toby christened it the Groundgouger. Screaming fans pushed each other out of the way for the bragging rights of being the first to get run over by it.

They left EC with a heroes' fanfare, lighter in imaginite but laden with souvenirs and road food. Their new transportation was a much smoother ride: the interior as cushy and spacious as an RV, the exterior armored like a mobile fortress. Ordinary constructs were no longer a problem. Though it was still fun to pew-pew at them from the gatling turret, and George enjoyed setting the treads on fire for extra lethality. When they encountered the Hell's Bozos again, the air was pierced by a terrified honking and the crush of motorcycles. Junella even took the time to revisit an old "friend".

Coryza thought at first a siege was underway when the Groundgouger approached. Zinc sent a message: cut out the cannonballs before they fucked up the paintjob. Thus began yet another vacation on top of all their others, revisiting old locations and discovering new ones. Their stay at the Tatterdemalion was free of charge, with both Xenoikos rushing out to enfold the travelers in happy hugs (though the parking lot otter had a devil of a time squeezing in the tank). They all sat together in a booth at the bar till midnight, getting sloshed, telling stories, and having their hearts eaten. Toby tried his first alcoholic beverage and was promptly unconscious. Piffle surprised everyone by drinking Junella under the table.

After a lengthy sleep, they went to visit Dorster and Alfonzo. The two avians were just as glad to see them too, saying that, thanks to word of mouth about the travelers' exploits, they literally could not make sheath pills fast enough. "One guy came in and bought about twenty. Turned himself into a walking armory-slash-swiss-cheese-impersonator," the blacksmith said with a rumbling laugh. Toby ended up with a sore hand from autographing them. He and Piffle told tales of hammer and fork while Alfonzo furiously scribbled notes, occasionally muttering, "I never thought they could do THAT..." Meanwhile, Zinc took Dorster to the back junkyard and showed off the doorknockers' new tricks. There was much manly roaring, spilling of beer, and highing of fives.

More sightseeing, more enjoyment, till finally they were on their way to Phlogiston. Junella and Zinc both shed happy tears as the prow of their sweet Jennie-Mae came into view, still untorched by Tinder Fingers under its eternal raincloud. One snort from George was all it took for the combustible construct to run and hide while the others unloaded the Groundgouger. Junella hugged the hull and rubbed her cheek on it, singing a lover's ode to her cherished boat. Zinc plopped down on the old battered couch and sighed blissfully. "Yep. Place's got the same old stink." Toby thought it was going to be a bit of an adjustment living in a place this cluttered and dusty. 'Though maybe that'll be good for me. Like, for balance.' Piffle decided to make a treehouse room for herself out of the crow's nest. George said he'd be more than happy to use the attached parts yard in Scrofula for his residence (after being assured that it only drove mortal souls into homicidal psychosis; nightmares no more so than normal.)

There followed several satisfying days of kicking up their feet and doing a lot of pleasant puttering about. Piffle flitted to and fro in Jennie's labyrinth of shelves, finding all sorts of trinkets to tinker with. Junella was initially fidgety to watch someone else messing around with her stuff, but the hamsterfly's nimble skill was undeniable. Soon they were spending whole afternoons shoulder to shoulder, with Piffle wrist-deep in clockwork, Junella grandly spinning the stories behind her treasures. Toby rearranged one of the larger closets into a cozy bedroom. Just enough space for a hammock and some books. George developed a taste for soulsucking serpent-ghosts. Zinc found a map in their mailbox with the location of Aldridge's promised imaginite horde. He rode a chopper out one afternoon to confirm its richness, then began doodling up blueprints. He babbled endlessly to the others about his ideas. A hot pink vampire with six Bobcat wheels. A grille full of syringes. A bloodpowered engine. It'd run by running over nightmares, drinking them to death. He was thinking of calling her Yvonne.

Soon they would begin on Luxy's grand experiment. And afterwards, maybe a return to guide work and bounty hunting. Toby was thinking of calling their group the Sur5ivors, but wasn't sure. First though, there were a couple more local matters to take care of.

While J, Z, & G remained behind to get the ship shipshape, Toby and Piffle took the tank to Stoma. She had been sending postcards to Billawhi all throughout their journey. When they arrived, the hamsterfly barely recognized her foster mom. Most of her fungal infection was gone, and she was holding hands with an equally old-and-cranky-looking gentleman. After a long reunion luncheon where they revealed themselves with much greater honesty than ever before, Billawhi explained to Piffle that her new friend was Stoma's doctor. In between her treatments, they had discovered a mutual love of complaining. "Plus, his favorite side dish is deep-fried mushrooms," she said with a wink. While those two reminisced, Toby excused himself to visit the local diner.

Porthole windows and red tailfins, waiting like a pitcher plant. Toby stepped inside and offered no resistance as the waiterthing led him to his fine dining fate. When Toby arrived again in the underground realm of grinding machinery and weeping slaves, he slid his hammer into his hand. After destroying a quarter of everything, he cornered Dacryphilia in his office. "Look," Toby said in a calm, reasonable voice to the legless, cowering, splintered construct, "you can keep your operation. Piffle said you're actually onto something here. But from now on, if someone tries to escape, you let them. You will have a waiterthing show them the exit and wave them goodbye. Because if I come back again and that's not the case, I'm leaving nothing standing." The Doctor said that sounded like a jolly fine idea and he'd get on it right away, oh yes-siree.

Toby and Piffle's final stop before heading back to Phlogiston was the unkempt woodlands of the Blackdamp. Toby stepped out onto the grass and felt an overwhelming rush of emotion. It had been less than three months since he'd first arrived here, running from a rustbeast. It felt like a lifetime. It felt like only a day. This place seemed almost harmless now.

Toby walked towards a cluster of trees and another mouse stepped out. He was startled, until he remembered that this was the literal beginning of the world. It made sense that the same doubling effect from Aldridge's lawn would be present here too. Toby regarded his reflection. He wasn't sure when it had happened, but during his return he'd regained a healthy weight. Sure, his torso was still considerably concave, and just as bruise-purple as ever. But the rest of him was back to being wiry and athletic, not emaciated. His face wasn't a skull anymore. He looked pretty much allright. Maybe Tía Lopez' magic bean deserved the credit, or maybe it was just that he didn't have worry gnawing at his bones anymore. He'd been setting aside a little time each day to practice with his calming gem. Sometimes Junella joined him.

Piffle flounced over and noticed the mouse was in one of his introspective moments. She said hi to her duplicate, kissed her to merge, then gave Toby's shoulder a tap to let him know they weren't just here to sightsee.

The mouse and hamsterfly unloaded wide boards they'd brought all the way from Anasarca. Aldridge had long since considered the idea of signs to help new souls understand where they were and what the rules were. But with Phobiopolis' instant-onset dyslexia, he'd never been able to establish a universally-understood message. He put the idea to Toby. Having knowledge of the age of emojis, the mouse thought he could probably hammer something out.

And so, with Piffle scouting locations and Toby pounding signposts, they did what they could to hopefully make future souls' emergence a little less nightmarish. Their signs looked like this:

CLICK HERE

They hung around awhile, wondering if maybe they'd get to welcome someone new. But it was a slow day. Toby mused that maybe Phobiopolis might start sucking up cryogenic patients eventually. Piffle asked what that word meant. He told her all about it on the drive back to their friends.


***


The weight of the Groundgouger made the parking lot sag. Green chemical slime came bubbling up the edges from Dengue's repulsive surrounding quagmire. Junella popped open the driver's side door and slid down her new cobalt goggles against the sun's glare. "Allright! Let's be quick about this. If we sink the joint, Sander's gonna be pissed at us."

"Aye-aye, cap'n!" Piffle sang with a salute. She buzzed out into the deodorized air, glad to spread her wings. She circled the tank a few times, then alighted on the left tread. "Where ya wanna put the hole?" she asked Zinc.

The canine cricked his back. "Anywhere oughtta be good, really. Throw a dart. Maybe we'll get lucky and the whole friggin' swamp'll ooze out like pullin' a bathtub plug." He poked his head back inside. "Yo, George! Where's our next stop after this? I gotta know how much junk food to buy!"

The stallion was busy disentangling himself from the treadmill-floored cradle of plugs and sockets that connected him to their vehicle's driveshaft. "Unless Madam Brox has changed her mind, it was decided we would attempt Teratoma."

Zinc winced. "That'll be fun," he deadpanned. 'Toma easily put Marasmus in second place for density of constructs. Luxy had suggested the spots, so the canine's best guess was that this was related to the new nightmare rehabilitation initiative. He hopped down to the concrete and heard a whistle. He managed not to fumble the softball-sized rock of imaginite Junella tossed to him.

"Get me some booze, hound. Top shelf only. I feel like bein' fancy."

He nodded back. "Aye-aye."

Trachea's Trading Post looked a little slow today, Toby observed. He descended the ladder rungs on the right tread and hoped this would be an easy site to drill. At least the most numerous constructs here were the trashbag bats, and the rockets' exhaust would take care of them. Plus, he'd get to see Sander again. 'And not embarrass myself in front of him this time.' He crossed the parking lot and the front doors opened automatically with a pleasant chime. Toby followed Zinc to the snack food aisle.

Their project was simple in execution, but mind-boggling in theory. The kind of idea only a lunatic would propose. Or a Luxy. He'd known about the mirrored shape of the world before, but always considered it a quirky bit of useless trivia. It wasn't until he finally had a chance to shoot the shit with Aldridge again that the possibilities became clear to him. Traveling across Phobiopolis was a pain in the ass. This was understood by everyone. But what if it could be skipped entirely? What if getting from place to place could be as simple as riding the subway?

He'd had a similar idea long ago: packing people into giant bullets and firing them from a cannon on top of Fifty-Two. No one survived the impact, though that wasn't a problem. However, all their luggage getting smashed in the process was. Plus the fact that Phobiopolis' chaotic air currents sent anything airborne off-course. PLUS the fact that the cannon also had limited range. Getting halfway to Coryza, then ending up on foot in Bozo territory, was no one's idea of practical.

But what if the idea could be modified? Keep the cannon. Keep the bullets. But don't aim them across, aim down. After all, if Toby could do it with Dysphoria...

The underside of the world had long since been explored, then written off as uninteresting. They hadn't even bothered to name it. It was just "the underside". (Toby's suggestion of Avulsion was officially adopted without much controversy.) No nightmare constructs were to be found there, but neither was anything else. The first expedition observed a barren moonscape of useless silt, deafening silence, and an admittedly-lovely view of the galaxy. The second tried to set up a base, and came to the unpleasant discovery that it was like building on water. They nearly ended up floating forever when their base worked loose and they had to leap to safety.

But Avulsion didn't have any problems with unstable air currents. And for as weak as the turf was, it retained consistency of perspective. Meaning that the second team down didn't find a wholly different landscape than the first, as was common topside.

If each half of Phobiopolis was a perfect mirror image of the other, down to the most microscopic detail, then why not just dig some holes in the ground, aim at the opposite side, and zoom to your destination across the middle? Kapow. Simple.

Lots of naysayers tried to talk Luxy out of the idea. Toby wasn't one of them. When they discussed it in one of their letter exchanges, he understood the principle immediately. And he knew it would work. He couldn't think of a single reason why it wouldn't, except for people being squeamish about trading places with their doppelganger. Luxy admitted that was a likely concern. "But they'll get over it. Convenience has a way of winning people over. And if it gives you the wibblies too much, there's still driving the long way."

EC and Coryza were the obvious choices for the first test locations. The two largest populations in Phobiopolis, and with enough math-lovers in both cities to coordinate the trajectories. The Groundgouger was given coordinates. All they had to do was drive there and drill.

Its core was actually a detachable shuttle. When the 'Gouger reached the right spot, powerful hydraulics would angle the center section horizontally. The bit would spin, the core would separate, and the treads would await their return. Digging through to the other side didn't take very long. Phobiopolis was little more than two giant identical pizza crusts. When the shuttle popped through into zero gravity, they used the rockets to turn around and shoot back home. Then the treads would automatically reposition to accept the incoming core.

For the first test, hundreds gathered just outside the twin cities. Even Luxy felt unnerved to stand at the edge of a giant hole and see the dark of the cosmos at the bottom. He clicked on his walkie-talkie, held up a heavy duty flashlight, and told Red Velvet he was ready. A city away, the gunsmith steadied his hand and aimed for the one visible star that was waving back and forth. He fired.

Twenty minutes later, the top of Luxy Bleeder's skull blew off.

Ectopia cheered as one. The raccoon resurrected and laughed in triumph so hard he choked and died again.

An hour later, the first passenger bullets were ready in both versions of Coryza. The trajectories were gauged. The cannons were loaded. Two bullets emerged, traveling in a giant simultaneous X. The team of astronauts later reported seeing themselves flying directly at themselves, merging for a tingling instant, then continuing on course. This had been the biggest worry: that the capsules would become singular, stop, and be stranded. Thankfully, their momentum propelled them easily past the joining point. Each capsule emerged in the opposite reality's Ectopia Cordis. This time everyone in both halves of the world joined in the joyous screaming. Champagne was sprayed freakin' everywhere.

The Groundgouger had since made a web of paths between EC, Coryza, Lalochezia, and Rhinolith. Dengue was today's target. Cachexy, Papilloma, Marasmus, Borborygmus, Quinsy,  Hypoxia, Chordoma, Crepitus, Phlogiston, and Stoma were also on the list. Eventually, when all the holes were finished, Toby had been assigned a diplomatic mission to Scarlatina to see if they wanted in too, or if they preferred for their community to remain largely unknown and unspoiled. Toby had no idea how they'd vote, and no idea which outcome he hoped for.

As expected, it took a while for most people to get over the 'existential creepiness' factor. Sideswapping was something the public applauded, but would rather someone else try first. Though all the early adopters reported that the two halves of the world really were identical. No backwards-writing on the signs. No evil twins with beards. In fact, a shift in perspective came from an interview with one of these travelers. "People think it's like you've got a clone of yourself running around. Nah, nah. It's just like broadcasting yourself on TV. An image, yeah? That ain't scary." That was a lot more palatable to many. And whether the project overall caught on or fizzled, Toby was just happy to be a part of it.

At the moment, he was also happy that he could read the candy labels without difficulty.  Luxy had paid them more money than they knew what to do with, so he splurged and got five Uncanny! bars. Key lime cheesecake flavor sounded good.

Then, up near the register, someone fired a painlauncher into the ceiling.

Obviously, it did not hurt the ceiling. But it did startle everyone.

Toby and Zinc were among the few who did not duck behind shelves or run away shrieking. Past the aisles, the mouse could see a rather jittery warthog aiming his weapon at the stoic bear who ran the shop.

The robber's voice was nails on a chalkboard. "I want it all, pops!! The cash register! The junk on the wall! You got a safe? Empty it! You got fillings in your teeth? Pry 'em out!!"

Sander Trachea, still looking like an imposing, haunted taxidermy, did not blink. "YOU ARE MAKING A BAD DECISION TODAY."

The robber waved the painlauncher in crazy arcs. Its red tip left trails like a sparkler. "Oh yeah!? Oh YEAH!? Well you'll make a worse one if you don't do what I'm sayin', ya old fart! Start grabbin' handfuls or I'll see how far I can stick this mother up your poop chute!!"

Down in the candy aisle, Zinc clanked his wrenches together. "Looks like overtime."

Toby tapped his shoulder. "Keep on shopping, I think I can handle this myself."

The canine raised an eyebrow. "You sure?"

Toby nodded, mostly confident. "You can circle around and be my backup if you want. But, yeah. I got this." He tugged on his vest like in a cop film.

Zinc grinned. "Sic 'im, kemosabe!"

Sander had now opened the register and was removing nuggets of imaginite one by one.

The robber tugged at his hair. "Ggggnaggghh!! Hurry it up!! Quit movin' so slow, old man! My trigger finger's got a hardon!"

Sander's glassy, pupilless eyes fixed on the robber. "I CANNOT HELP THAT I AM SLOW. YOUR WEAPON WILL NOT CHANGE THAT."

The painlauncher quivered an inch from the shopkeep's skinless muzzle. "It'll change your day from happy to sad if you don't put your foot on the gas!"

"Excuse me."

The warthog whirled around, frothing at the tusks. The many colorful pins on his leather pants jangled. He pointed the painlauncher directly in the skinny mouse's face. "This ain't the time to ask for the restroom key, kiddo! Beat it!!"

Toby held his hands up. "Hey, listen, Sander's a friend of mine. Sort of. I was only in here once before. But still, I'd appreciate it if you'd turn that thing off and walk away."

The warthog blinked. "OooooooOOOOHHH!! So polite!" He guffawed, then blared, "HOW ABOUT NO!?!"

Toby's expression subtly shifted. "It'd be smarter to walk away. Trust me."

"I could say the same to you, pal!" He jammed the painlauncher's tip right up in the mouse's abdominal gape. "You got about three seconds to back the fuck up and let me rob this place in peace, okay!? One..."

Toby stood statue-still and simply looked at the brute. No fear in his eyes. Just a sincere request that things not go this way.

"Two..." The robber's arm twitched like a seismograph needle. The little rodent's Buddha act was bugging him out.

Toby held his hands open: 'I'm waiting...'

The warthog hesitated, not really wanting to do this, but there was no way Trachea would cough up the rocks if he didn't follow through on his threat. "THREE! FRY, FARTFACE!!" He pulled the trigger.

Barely a muscle twitched as Toby's entire torso lit up scarlet from the bolts of agonizing energy surging through it.

The robber's eyes popped.

Toby shrugged and gave him the sweetest, most peaceful smile. "It's only pain," he said.

Shaking, the robber backed up a step. "Jesus, kid!! You got cement in your veins or what!?"

The warthog had declined the chance to leave peacefully and had demonstrated a willingness to use violence upon an innocent furson. Toby didn't feel at all bad about what he did next.

He dropped his arm, then sliced it back upwards in a lightning-quick arc. A silver flash appeared in his palm, vanishing again just as quickly. It encountered as much resistance as cutting through air.

The robber dropped his gun.

The pain had not reached his addled brain yet. He stood trembling with fragments of himself trickling onto the trading post floor. He was cleaved from crotch to sternum. A blood-red furrow of flesh had turned to crystal, like a living geode. With every twitch, more cubes plinked out.

Toby lowered his arm. "You can leave now," he said, like a doctor dismissing a patient.

The robber tried to make words exit his mouth. They would not. He managed a few small noises like a gagging chicken as he walked off, stiff-legged, straight to the nearest door.

Sander nodded and began putting nuggets back in his cash register.

Toby walked over and leaned against the counter. "Phew. That went allright."

He felt the bear's bass voice reverberate through the wood. "THANK YOU."

"You're welcome."

Behind them the remaining customers sensed 'all clear' and began to peek their heads out. Zinc threw Toby a double thumbs-up.

"ARE YOU STILL GOING TO DRILL THE BIG HOLE?" Sander asked.

"Sure. Can't see why we wouldn't. We're gonna get some supplies first though. Zinc'll be up with a bunch of stuff pretty soon. Do you need any breath while we're waiting?"

Business was concluded amiably. Zinc's basket was indeed overflowing with food, drink, and specialty ammo, plus a pair of forearm blades he thought Junebug might like. Piffle bought a crossword book. Toby hung around a while to shoot the breeze with Sander. Having his air eaten wasn't all that bad. Strange, but not painful.

Toby waved as he left the shop. The big bear waved back, almost as slowly as Red. Toby smiled as he crossed the parking lot towards his friends. And then his chest exploded with so much pain it made the robber's weapon feel like a joy buzzer.


***


"I didn't want to call the police on her. She's a good neighbor. Always quiet. But that smell! It started a week ago and I can't stand it anymore! Something is very, very wrong in that house!"

Detective Sable thanked her for her cooperation and assured her that making the call was the right thing to do. The officers hadn't taken one step inside before they knew this was one for the hazmat team. The cloud of cleaning chemicals inside 1225 Lindsay was like being punched in the throat. Stevens and Miccelli had lurched away, gagging. Rickard, thinking it couldn't possibly be that bad, called the others wimps and strode through the front door with confidence. A moment later he was puking on the sidewalk.

1225 was in the database. There were other calls years ago about a fight overheard by someone walking their dog, and suspicions from a teacher that a child inside might be suffering maltreatment. Nothing came of either report though. Now this. Every cop knew that gut-clenching moment of realization: because a minor call had not been followed up on, it had metastasized into a major fucking call. Once the pine-scented miasma had aired out a bit, anyone who wasn't breathing through their sleeve had that same sinking feeling. You can put a lot of stuff on top of it, but there's not much that can hide the stench of death.


***

Toby dropped to the ground. He clutched at his chest before remembering he didn't really have one.  His breathing was rapid. The pain was like a balloon on the razor edge of bursting. His veins filled with fire all the way down his arm.

The mouse was a walking first aid manual. Of course he knew the signs of a heart attack.


***


"You are NOT gonna believe what's upstairs!!"

The guys in the pachyderm suits had shown up and went tromping inside like a squad of exterminators. They drew back the curtains so the others could see in. The ground floor was a shambles. Wallpaper scrubbed to shreds. Furniture smashed. TV dinner trays piled halfway to the ceiling in the kitchen. Uncountable empty cardboard boxes, spray bottles, aerosol cans, used wipes, and rubber gloves. Early speculation had it that this was one of those hoarder houses, and they'd be carrying out trash bags of dead nonevs by the end of the day. But there was only one body. They found her at the foot of the stairs. Broken neck; apparently an accident. She was withered like rotten fruit. Her age made her seem like a mummy, but the corpse hadn't been there for more than ten days, tops. Hard to tell at first though. The sheer amount of antibacterial products in the house had kept the usual decomposition bugs at bay.

And now here came Pete from the hazmat crew, bringing the stink downstairs with him, telling Sable about the upstairs bedroom. A little kid's room. Plastic everything.  A galaxy of empty pill bottles beside the bed. And in it... Well, it definitely wasn't a kid. "I've never seen malnutrition like this. I don't know how he's still alive, honestly. The only way we could even tell is he's hooked up to a heart monitor. Fed by an IV drip. He could be anywhere from his mid-thirties to late forties. Guy's a skeleton."


***


Toby's shaking hand fumbled in his pocket for the calming gem. His fingertips were going numb. He got the little jewel out, but it went skidding across the parking lot. Inside his ribcage, a coked-up drummer was beating an arrhythmic solo on his heart. Which he didn't have. But apparently he was going into cardiac arrest anyway. Funny. Ha ha.

He saw feet. His vision was being slowly invaded by black spots and sparkles, but he could make out the fuzzy silhouettes of his friends. "H-help m-m-m-m..."

They didn't. They gathered around him in a circle, looking down with grim expressions. Junella picked up the gem for him. Then she exchanged knowing glances with the others. They joined hands.

"We can't fix what's going on with you, Toby," she said.

Zinc was pale. "Sorry, amigo, yeah. You just... hold on for a bit."

Piffle bit her lip and couldn't think of anything to say that would make this any more bearable.

George looked confused and outraged that they were doing nothing to aid Sire Toby. "He is in distress! Why are you standing idle!?"

Zinc gave the stallion a troubled look. "This is something you never went through, George. Just trust us. Wait. It's all we can do."

Lying with his cheek to the pavement, Toby twitched and spasmed as pulses of pain kicked the absolute shit out of him. Big, heavy boots stomped on his nervous system with every failing heartbeat. Everything growing worse by the second. Like watching a semi truck careening towards him, and knowing there were no brakes.


***


Heavy, panicked footsteps came stumbling down the staircase. Miccelli ran out of the house and ripped his mask off. "I swear I didn't touch him!! I swear, I SWEAR!!"

Sable came over and roughly grabbed his shoulder. "What the fuck did you do!?"

Miccelli replied between gasps, "Nothing, I swear! I was just watching them photograph him! I wanted to see it myself. Trainwreck fascination, y'know? I leaned over. Maybe I breathed on him too hard. But the monitor flatlined-" he snapped his fingers, "-just like that! I swear to fucking Mary I didn't touch him!!"

Sable pushed the quaking officer aside and ran into 1225. All the doors and windows had been opened, but the smell still stung his eyes like mace. He breathed through his shirt collar.

In the room at the top of the steps, Sable saw something he knew his brain would never let him forget. Such a cheerful bedroom. Such tidy bookshelves. So many pill bottles. So many stains. And a thing in a homemade oxygen tent built from clear duct-taped garbage bags. A sunken, furless, catheterized thing in a bed that was crawling with death and by everything that was holy should've been put out of its misery decades ago.

The EMTs were arguing about whether or not CPR would crush its ribs like rice paper.


***


Toby's vision had gone entirely black. His hearing was was reduced to the amplified thunder of his fragmented heart. The pain was erasing his consciousness. Eating his soul. It was ripping out his nerves and chewing on them. Every other death he'd been through, he now recognized for the illusions they were. No matter the pain, this was different. This was REAL. Like the Allfilth was real. Like the Neculaunis and the amulet were simply more there than everything else in Phobiopolis. This was the death of the dead. His heartbeat wasn't there anymore. His brain was rocketing into full-blown panic: a prisoner rattling the bars of his cell as the jailhouse floods with lava.


***


"It's... No. There's no hope of resuscitating him."

"Obviously! Jesus, just look at him! You can't call it a miracle he survived this long. What's the opposite of a miracle!?"


***


And then it was over. Toby's senses all turned back on again at full volume. He sucked in a whooping breath, then shuddered and jolted up from the concrete.

His friends were around him. Wrenches lifted him up. Furred and vinyl paws patted him consolingly. A sooty skull nuzzled him in concern.

"What... What the heck just..." Everything was spinning.

Zinc smiled bittersweetly. "Congrats, compadre. You died."

Toby tried to get his feet underneath him, but they'd gone all noodly. He was glad Zinc was holding him up. "I thought that already happened?"

Piffle shook her head. "Nope. Just the big sleep, remember? Your body finally gave up the ghost just now. Kicked the bucket. I remember when it happened to me. Pow! Outta nowhere! I know it musta been horrible, Toby, but there wasn't really anything we coulda done to make it easier on you."

He waved his hand. "That's allright. I'm sure if there was, you would've."

She gave him a kiss for being so understanding.

"Can you stand yet?" Zinc asked.

"Lemme try." The wrenches released and he didn't immediately collapse. Toby had to brace himself against George and Junella, but he stayed upright. "Okay."

The skunk reached up to hold the hand touching her shoulder. "Welcome to the club, mouse."

He blinked dazedly at her. "Club?"

She nodded towards a nearby picnic table. "Let's sit down first."

Toby needed their support to walk the first few steps, but he got the hang of it eventually. He indicated he'd try on his own lowering himself to the wooden seat. They remained ready to catch him, but he made it. The others sat close by. George dumbfounded a can of Anisocoria Rain, as he knew his master was fond of them.

"Thanks." Toby popped the top and killed half the can in one long swallow. Lovely. A lot of the shock and fog melted away. He felt halfway to allright. His heartbeat was back to normal, which was downright bizarre the more he thought about it. "So... I died. What's that mean? Are you gonna throw me a deathday party?"

"Some people have 'em," Zinc replied.

"What it really means, Toby," Junella said carefully, "is that there's no road home anymore. Like, even if Aldridge found a way and really wanted to, it couldn't work now."

"Oh." Toby took a deep breath. "I guess that's not so bad, right? I was pretty much resigned to that already."

Piffle gave his leg a pat. "Mm-hmm."

Junella added, "Once in a blue moon someone'll disappear outta here. We're pretty sure it's them returning to the real world. But it's rare as steak. I never mentioned it before because I thought it might fix you on a false hope."

He nodded; she'd made the right decision. "This doesn't really change anything, does it?"

She shrugged. "Some people feel like it does. But really, there's no more side effects than what you'd stir up yourself from worrying about it."

Toby squeezed her paw and Piffle's, then looked around to everyone. It had been a deeply frightening and excruciating experience, but it was over now. The afterechoes were almost gone. If he was truly stuck here for all eternity, then that wasn't so bad. What better companions could he ask for to spend his afterlife with?

He smiled. "I guess we can get back to making holes then."

Junella was surprised and not surprised that he was bouncing back so quickly. "Hold on. I wanna make sure you're sure first. Like, I don't wanna be burrowing into outer space and have you suddenly go apeshit on me."

Toby chuckled. "I promise, I won't. You can shove me in the airlock if I do. Though..." Something else had just occurred to him. He got abruptly quiet and nibbled on his finger.

"What?" the skunk pried.

Toby shook his head. "It's not important right now. Just, something that's been wandering around in the back of my mind for the past few weeks. An idea. A rough sketch. I guess it popped up again because, if there's really no chance of me ever going back to Earth, this is my home now."

"That's about the long and short of it." Zinc said.

Toby looked down at the grass past his sandals. "And if it's my home, I have an obligation to it. To make sure it's a good place to live."

"A laudable sentiment," George concurred.

"So that means..." Toby swallowed. He kneaded his hands together. "That means keeping it clean. Of dirt and infections."

Piffle squinted. "I spose? Sounds like you're beating around the bush, Toby."

"I am." He sighed and looked up at the sky. Sunny and bright, with batwinged monsters swooping in broad, lazy circles overhead. His world. And he was about to burden them all with another impossible idea.

But then again... He looked back at the faces of his friends, all leaned in around him and curious. A skunk with a blade. A mutt with metal arms. A sweetly silly hamsterfly. And an ascended nightmare stallion.

'Of course they can handle this. Of course we can.'

"Guys... Has anyone ever tried to get rid of Logdorbhok?"



THE END
for now...
















Alex Reynard's
~~P~H~O~B~I~O~P~O~L~I~S~~


Featuring, our cast:

Toby deLeon: a coward – Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Junella Brox: a freelancer – Cree Summer
Zinc: a bruiser – Christian Slater
Piffle McPerricone: an eccentric – Stevie Vallance
George Charles Atkinson: a manservant – Markiplier
Doll: a ward - ...

~

Luxy Bleeder: a tyrant – Ryan Reynolds
L'roon: a peddler – Stephen Fry
Gilla Gilla: a survivalist – John Boyega
Albion Aldridge: a sorcerer – Derren Brown
Rebecca Polidori: a housewife – Lili Taylor

~

Billawhi: a harbinger – Cloris Leachman
the arachnopus: a creature – Kimberly Brooks
Dr. Dacryphilia: a svengali – Patton Oswalt
Sander Trachea: a trader – Reginald D. Hunter
Spiretto Bronze: a rescuee – Danny Sexbang
Lady Mia Xenoiko: an innkeeper – Youki Kudoh
Dorster: a blacksmith – Tony "Man At Arms" Swatton
Alfonzo: an innovator – John Mulaney
Calvin Rither: a bushwhacker – John Leguizamo
Sergeant Canker: a hardass – ProZD
the terrier: a thug – Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Pancake Food: a fool – Harley "Sauce Boss" Morenstein
Ambient: a waitress – Karen Straughn
Mr. Roosman: a hotelier – Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Mr. Rippingbean: a retailer – Simon Pegg
Mr. Woofingbutter: a retailer – Nick Frost
Kay Burdock: a tailor – Daniel "Nerd³" Hardcastle
Kaye Burdock: a tailor – Emma Blackery
Jamais Dreamsicle: a reporter – Jane Kaczmarek
Loud Kevin: a hypeman - "Pistol" Pete Midtgard
Gibraltar F. Powell: a guardsman – Channing Tatum
Millie Maybach: a courtesan –  Bette Midler
the doorman: a doorman – Dizzee Rascal
Pandevar Skyks: a defendant – Bo Burnham
Cameron: a cameraman – Adam Savage
Zhiral: an attendant – Arleen Sorkin
Red: a colossus – Frank Welker
Skeeto Nacker: a son – Jimmy Bennet
Tak Nacker: a father – Tory Belleci
Kat Nacker: a mother -  Jewel Staite
Poubelle: a chef -  Hannah Hart
After: a chef – Andrew Huang
Madam Tif Tif: a shopkeeper – Björk
Chorizo: an urchin – Teo Halm
Jazeizal: a potionmaster – Pink Guy
Vienna Tusk: a sniper – Zoë Bell
Ignatious Xenoiko: a coot – Will Forte
Ike Fanshaw: a banshee – Hopsin
Janie Jing: a telekinetic – Tabitha St. Germain
Waxacada: a sage – Christopher Lloyd
Driuwej: a guru – Chow Yun Fat
Tía Lopez: a curandera – Sônia Braga
King: a greaser – Rick Gomez
Arvid Gundersson: a dreamer – Anthony Zerbe
Speech Synthesis Program v3.0: a voice – Sigourney Weaver
"Lantern Eyes" Lulu: a slavedriver – Carolyn Lawrence
Maxo Mattic: a swashbuckler – Cam Clarke
Mini Maul: a henchdroid – Scarlett Johansson
The Robber: a robber – Bobcat Goldthwait


~***~


-SOUNDTRACK-

*Dream I
Skrillex – Fire Away [Prologue] (Toby's theme)
Skrillex – The Reason [Rust & Hiding]
Icona Pop feat. The Knocks & St. Lucia – Sun Goes Down [The Cave]
Ecklectic Mick – I Like To Do Things For You [After Spider] (Piffle's Theme)
Caravan Palace – Sydney [To Stoma]
Pete Townshend – Let My Love Open The Door [Dacryphilia's Domain]
SCNDL- 40 Thieves [Escape Run]
Ennio Morricone – My Fault [Glowing Ground] (George's Theme)
Skrillex – Doompy Poomp [Morning Walk]
Gramatik – Swucca Chust [Jennie Mae]
Savant – Sledge Hammer [Tinder Fingers]
The Baseballs – Crazy In Love [Car Work]
Proleter – April Showers [Sander's Shop]
Gramatik – Lonely & Cold [Backseat Sulk]
Bill Withers – Ain't No Sunshine (Lido Remix) [Waterfallout]
Mitsunori Ikeda feat Aimee B. - Fallen Angel [Trapforest Path] (Doll's theme)
Lights – Quiet [Campfire]

*Dream II
Basement Jaxx – Good Luck [Ice Massacre] (Junella's Theme)
Pogo – Living Island [Coryza Arrival]
Hugo – 99 Problems (JPOD Remix) [The Tatterdemalion]
Twistin' Tarantulas – Takin' You Down Tonight [Dorster's Invention] (Zinc's Theme)
George & Jonathan – Jamn [Coryza Afternoon]
Dyro – Black Smoke [Amaurosis Fugax]
Skrillex – Rock 'N' Roll (Will Take You To The Mountain) [Red Noses]
Karl Jenkins – Palladio (Luke Da Duke Remix) [Audio Weapon]
Shawn Wasabi – Pizza Rolls [Bigwheel One]
Nine Inch Nails – Head Like A Hole [The Gastroworks]
Tanuki – Baby Baby Dream [Rippingbean & Woofingbutter's]
Future Fox – Love Trip [K&K]
Nero – Departure [Penthouse Suite]
Protohype & Kezwik – Hold Your Breath [Gyre 2]
FantomenK & Meganeko – Crystal Tokyo [To 46!]
Gramatik – Red Baron Of WWIII [Mall Assault]
Saliva – Ladies And Gentlemen [Lux Aeterna]
Queens Of The Stone Age – Smooth Sailing [The Trial] (Luxy's theme)

*Dream III
Gotye – Seven Hours With A Backseat Driver [Circling EC]
Twistin' Tarantulas – Ace Of Spades [Hyper Highway]
Noisia – Groundhog [Cat Ball]
The Chemical Brothers – Come With Us [Airplane!]
Skrillex – Try It Out [Bridge Birds]
Tut Tut Child – Broadside Bordello [She's Big]
Proleter – The Misfit Song [Hitchhiking]
Teminite – Beastmode [Convorines]
Tha Trickaz – Cut Like A Guillotine [Enter Gilla]
Winne – W.I.N.N.E. [Gilla's Pad]
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb [Morning Practice]
Zapp – Radio People [L'roon]
The Beat Tornados – Living In The Shadows [Swamp Things]
Quincy Jones – Summer In The City [Maze & Prep]
Caravan Palace – Queens [Entering Dysphoria]
Gorge Catanda – SNFLD [Sanity Drop]
Nero's Day At Disneyland – No Money Down Low Monthly Payments [Bedrooms & Bedrooms]
Yasunori Mitsuda – The Girl Who Stole The Stars [A Loss]
Stevie Wonder – Ecclesiastes [Escalator Mood]
Brian Eno – Deep Blue Sea [Wizard House]
Gramatik – Day Of The So Called Glory [Hello]

*Dream IV
Hiroyuki Namba – Silent War [Lying Awake]
Cat Stevens – Rubylove [Scarlatina Sighted]
Shawn Wasabi – Marble Soda [Dry Days]
Disclosure ft. Eliza Doolittle – You & Me (Flume Remix) [Sudden Recall]
_yi – irasshai_bye_bye [Doubts & Leaving]
Beats Antique – Junktion [Lalochezia Afternoon]
Haywyre – Insight [Hopeful Realization]
ProleteR – Inna [Tif Tif]
Specimen A – Tomahawk [Market Battle]
Beats Antique – Oriental Uno [Disguised Return]
Brian Eno – Under Stars [Living Constellations]
Ennio Morricone – Man With A Harmonica (Mad Maxx Remix) [Day's Travel]
Logan Kendell – The Grid (On Homemade Gas Can Guitar) [The Herd]
Skrillex feat. Ellie Goulding – Summit [Slow Work]
Gramatik feat. Eskobars – Brave Men [Vienna Tusk]
traditional – La Cucaracha [They're Here!]
Miike Snow – Genghis Khan [Pep Talk]
Falk – Endless Possibility (Rockestrate My World Arrangement) [Toby's Warpath]

*Dream V & VI
Link Wray – Rumble [Remember 1]
Ruth Etting – Laughing At Life [Remember 2]
Gramatik – In This Whole World [Remember 3]
Gramatik – We Used To Dream [Spiral Staircase]
Frou Frou – Must Be Dreaming [The Plan]
Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know [Crawling Back]
Kenji Kawai – Floating Museum [Emerald & White]
Starcadian – Pompey Pirate [Flashback/Boom]
Torro Torro – Make A Move (Skrillex Remix) [Opening Arguments]
Shurk – Haunted [Burning Eyes]
Skrillex – Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites (Dirtyphonics Remix) [Battle Royale]
Yoshihisa Hirano – The Puppeteer ["I have..."]
Panic! At The Disco – Don't Threaten Me With A Good Time [Expeditioners, Charge!]
Monsta – Holdin' On (Skrillex & Nero Remix) [Toby Returns]
Son Lux – Lost It To Trying [Toby Loses]
Grissini Project – No Time For Caution [The Word]
Isao Tomita – Claire de Lune [Aftercare]
VNV Nation – Gratitude [Many Changes]
Caravan Palace – Aftermath [Shop/Arrhythmia]
Mystery Skulls – Forever [Final Line]
Skrillex – Recess [End Credits]


~***~


SINCERE GRATITUDE TO MY PATRONS OF UNFATHOMABLE PATIENCE
Robert Darling
Chris
Pseudos Muhthotohsin
Vanyel Stargazer
Angelwuff
Sen Grisane
Shadow Panther
Relee Squirrel
Trashycoon
D Kenmason

~***~

Thanks also to the following, for encouragement:
PagliacciGrim, wombatwobble, dragoon134, mkyner, GuW69


~***~


OMEGA-LEVEL, PANTS-SHITTING, WORLD-IS-NOT-ENOUGH THANKS TO MY PROOFREADING TEAM

Alfador Fox: Master of typos
Kanada: Master of art
Relee Squirrel: Master of continuity
Robby Rourke: Master of voice
Zephon Fox: Master of theming


~***~


And lastly, very special thanks are due to

Lewis Carroll, for Wonderland
L. Frank Baum, for Oz
Michael Ende, for Fantastica
Norton Juster, for the lands beyond the tollbooth
Lee Minoff & Heinz Edelmann, for Pepperland
Harry Nilsson, for the Pointless Forest
Daniel M. Pinkwater, for Diamond Hard
Stephen King & Peter Straub, for the Territories
Sidney Lumet, for Oz
Hayao Miyazaki, for the Periphery
Don Bluth, for the rose bush
John Korty, for the Murkworks and sunny Frivoli
Wolfgang Petersen, for Fantasia
Walter Murch, for Oz
Jim Henson, for the Labyrinth
Ralph Bakshi, for Tattertown
Yukito Kushiro, for the Scrapyard
Jim Woodring, for the Unifactor
Mark Crilley, for Smoo
Ken Levine, for Columbia
Toby Fox, for Mount Ebott
and
Alan Aldridge, for the cover of Elton John's Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy,
the first time I ever saw an epic story unfold in a single image.


~***~




'Cause the world might do me in
It's alright, 'cause I'm with friends
-Mystery Skulls, "Ghost"











































Luxy Bleeder sat on a thin platform jutting out from the blinking red antennae at the very tip-top of Bigwheel Fifty-Two. On Earth, such structures existed to prevent planes from crashing into tall buildings. There were no planes in Phobiopolis ('Except for that one fucking place...'), but it was traditional, so he'd stuck one on. It looked cool. Which was always reason enough for anything.

The bulb turned him cranberry red every two seconds. He was singing to himself between puffs of his cigarette.

"I live for the, way that you cheer and scream for me. The applause, applause, applause..."

Right on time, he noticed a heavenly wingspan descending through the clouds.

He stood up and walked to the edge of the platform, toes dangling off. The winds up here were fierce, so he had to sway a bit to keep his balance lest he plummet through the faux blue sky and die horrifically, impaled on some nice lady's garden sculpture. Fun. He snubbed out his cig on the back of his hand. Not polite to exhale carcinogens into the face of the divine.

He waved. "Well, well, well. If it isn't my favorite foe!"

"Mine as well," Aldridge replied with a friendly nod as he drew nearer. He folded his wings and stood comfortably on nothing.

The raccoon spied the brown paper parcel underneath the angel's arm. "You actually brought it. I'm flabbergasted."

"And why is that? Didn't you think I'd keep my word?"

"Nothing like that!" Luxy was quick to reassure. "I just thought, naturally enough, that you might've had second thoughts about, well... me."

The wizard laughed, warmly and genuinely. "Luxy, I failed my half of the bargain. You didn't. No one deserves to be entrusted with this more than you."

The mayor grinned with all his teeth. "That is entirely true. Can't disagree."

They laughed together.

Luxy sighed. He looked down at his shoes, the lights of his home, and the ground a mile away. "I actually..." He rubbed the back of his neck. "At the party, I didn't get a chance to say that, ah, I'm glad we're talking to each other again. For realsies. It was exciting being your foil, but it could've been more. Y'know?"

Aldridge nodded. "I think we were what we needed to be for each other at the time. And now as well."

A smirk. "You. Always with the wisdom drippin' out of you like jelly from a doughnut. The embodiment of all the good in the world."

The wizard shook his head. "Not hardly. If I were the embodiment of good and you were my opposite, that would mean you'd be evil, which you aren't."

Luxy pointed at the cube-shaped package. "I think we both know who fits that slot a little better."

"Actually..." Aldridge tapped his finger to his lips. "To extend your idea a little, the star being is Good. The Allfilth is Evil. Scaphis is Madness. And I, I'd like to hope, am Balance."

"What am I then?" Luxy asked.

"Truth," Aldridge said simply.

Luxy blinked. That was actually one of the nicest compliments he had ever received. "Geez... Thank you." His grin became bashful "I guess then Toby is the pebble. The one that makes ripples in still water."

"Who's the one flopping their wisdom out now?" Aldridge teased.

Luxy chortled.

Aldridge handed over the package. "Into more capable hands I could not hope to place this."

"I won't let you down," the raccoon said, then performed a beautiful fake drop, catching it on the end of his shoe. "Ha."

"Maybe you're actually the Jester."

"Por que no los dos?" Luxy transferred the cube to his hands. Cripes, he could actually feel the rage radiating off it.

He looked back to Aldridge. There was a moment's uncomfortable silence.

"Say, uh... I've got court in half an hour or something. You wanna come down, sit in the audience? After that we can, I dunno, dick around awhile? Hit some bars? Rob a bank?"

Aldridge was about to decline by default, then stopped himself. "You know what? That sounds absolutely brilliant. I haven't just walked around like a normal furson in ages." With a snap he changed his robes to a dapper blue suit. "I'll be there."

"Aces, jack! You look like a diamond. Let's go clubbing. I've got money in spades and a heart-on to spend it."

Aldridge groaned and slapped his forehead. "Oh god. You've been waiting to spring that one on someone, haven't you?"

"Nope! Just popped into my head right now, in fact!"


***


The raccoon had several secret offices, but this one was the secretest secret of all.

Strolling down a plain white fluorescent -lit hallway, he could easily hear the rumbling bass thumpbeat of his audience enjoying a pre-trial mosh pit. At a specific point he stopped, knocked two times on the thirteenth tile from the ceiling, four times on the second from the floor, then whistled a C sharp. The section of wall ceased to exist. He entered, and it returned behind him.

It was a cozy room. Blissfully soundproofed. A mattress on the floor with rumpled sheets. Walls full of posters. Old toys, old albums. Trinkets that made him get misty eyed whenever he looked at them.

He ripped off the brown paper and tossed her casually on the bed. He plopped down too, putting his arm around her. "Ah, Scrappy... Brings back memories, doesn't it? Remember how you used to let me fuck you in the ass on this bed? Back when you were interesting?"

A shockwave of pure, crazy hatred emanated from the single drop of blood at the center of the cube.

He noogied it. "Oh, don't be like that! I probably understand you better than anyone else in the world. Did then, still do. And that's why I'm about to offer you a secret proposition. Just between you and me."

The blood quieted.

He grinned. That'd caught her attention. "I been thinking lately. Maybe this job's too much for one furson. Maybe I'm getting old. Or maybe I just need to share it. So..." He tapped irritatingly on the glass. "That's where you come in. Banish all thought of me ever trusting you enough to let you out. Ain't happening. No way, blue jay. You made your legacy and you can fester in it. However, if you feel up to it, I'd be down for bringing you a little mental stimulation once in a while. Problems I'm stuck on. Gain another viewpoint. Whadja say?"

The blood hesitated.

"You're gonna get awfully bored in here if you don't say yes. Your only alternative is, I keep you on my desk as a paperweight and dust you off with my cum sock every four or five weeks."

A soundless scream of virulent loathing.

Luxy tittered. "That's my Scaphis!" He patted the cube and stood up. He glanced at his watch. "I've got shit to do now. I'll give you a gift in the meantime. Think about my offer. As I said, we share twin souls, you and I. So I'm offering you a chance to do something with yourself. But I am neither your teacher or healer. I'm just tossing you a rope. Climb it if you want. That's the extent of the responsibility I feel towards you."

He turned away. Just before leaving, directly across from her line of sight, he unrolled and pinned up a poster showing the symbols for communicating in Morse code.


***


Loud Kevin was walking back and forth down the hallway, hissing his boss' name through his teeth.

"Boo."

The prairie dog leapt a foot off the ground. "God of FUCKS, Lux!! Are you ever gonna stop doing that to me!?"

"Not till the seas turn to dust. You're the Gordon to my Batman. When're we on?"

"Five minutes ago, asshole."

The raccoon blinked. He looked at his watch again. "Welp, I'm not drunk yet so I must be an idiot." He glanced at the wall to make sure it had reappeared. Nothing but white paint and boringness again. He nodded, then took off at a brisk pace.

Loud Kevin waddled to keep up. He took off his sunglasses, wiped down his forehead, then slotted the blades back into his eyes. "I know your mind's made up, but are you SURE about this?" he asked again.

"You mean about Scaphis? Absolutely." Kevin was the only other soul in Phobiopolis who knew about his plan. "Think of her as a reverse moral compass."

"Yeah, but..." A lightbulb suddenly went off. "You're not going to give her the real deal, are you?"

"On the contrary." A Cheshire smile. "I'm going to be one hundred percent accurate in what I tell her. I'll just withhold the fact that, whatever she decides, that will be the one action I'll know I must not take."

Kevin sighed in immense relief. "Goddammit, man! You had me thinking your brain turned to pigeonshit. Bringing her in on big decisions. Of course you're keeping a step ahead."

Luxy bonked him on the snout with his fingertip. "Remind me to have you drawn and quartered later for insufficient faith in the smartest man alive. She lives for spite. She'll be diligent in thinking about my brainteasers. She'll pick answers that sound very reasonable, even compassionate. All carefully designed to bite me in the ass down the road. Ergo, she'll be useful for eliminating problems I can't see coming."

The prairie dog guffawed.

"Plus, it's a fake room. Molecularly-duplicated down to the smell of my stale armpits. Like I'd ever let her get close to my Cool Stuff again."

"Too much, man! You are straight-up fuckin' hexi-dazmic!"

"Ain't I though?" Luxy sighed happily. "The most inescapable cage is the one with a seemingly open door," he quoted from somewhere. With a spring in his step, he picked up his pace. "C'mon, let's go fuck up some evildoers!"





"Phobiopolis"
Started: 10/20/2013 Finished: 04/24/2018 Editing completed: 08/02/2018
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
page
1
page
2
page
3
page
4
page
5
page
6
page
7
page
8
page
9
page
10
page
11
page
12
page
13
page
14
page
15
page
16
page
17
page
18
page
19
page
20
page
21
page
22
page
23
page
24
page
25
page
26
page
27
page
28
page
29
page
30
page
31
page
32
page
33
page
34
page
35
page
36
page
37
page
38
page
39
page
40
page
41
page
42
page
43
page
44
page
45
page
46
page
47
page
48
page
49
page
50
page
51
page
52
page
53
page
54
page
55
page
56
page
57
page
58
page
59
page
60
page
61
page
62
page
63
page
64
page
65
page
66
page
67
page
68
page
69
page
70
page
71
page
72
page
73
page
74
page
75
page
76
page
77
page
78
page
79
page
80
page
81
page
82
page
83
page
84
page
85
page
86
page
87
page
88
page
89
page
90
page
91
page
92
page
93
page
94
page
95
page
96
page
97
page
98
page
99
page
100
page
101
page
102
page
103
page
104
page
105
page
106
page
107
page
108
page
109
page
110
page
111
page
112
page
113
page
114
page
115
page
116
page
117
page
118
page
119
page
120
page
121
page
122
page
123
page
124
page
125
page
126
page
127
page
128
page
129
page
130
page
131
page
132
page
133
page
134
page
135
page
136
page
137
page
138
page
139
page
140
page
141
page
142
page
143
page
144
page
145
page
146
page
147
page
148
page
149
page
150
page
151
page
152
page
153
page
154
page
155
page
156
page
157
page
158
page
159
page
160
page
161
page
162
page
163
page
164
page
165
page
166
page
167
page
168
page
169
page
170
page
171
page
172
page
173
page
174
page
175
page
176
page
177
page
178
page
179
page
180
page
181
page
182
page
183
page
184
page
185
page
186
page
187
page
188
page
189
page
190
page
191
page
192
page
193
page
194
page
195
page
196
page
197
page
198
page
199
page
200
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
next
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
previous
page
 
 
page
1
page
2
page
3
page
4
page
5
page
6
page
7
page
8
page
9
page
10
page
11
page
12
page
13
page
14
page
15
page
16
page
17
page
18
page
19
page
20
page
21
page
22
page
23
page
24
page
25
page
26
page
27
page
28
page
29
page
30
page
31
page
32
page
33
page
34
page
35
page
36
page
37
page
38
page
39
page
40
page
41
page
42
page
43
page
44
page
45
page
46
page
47
page
48
page
49
page
50
page
51
page
52
page
53
page
54
page
55
page
56
page
57
page
58
page
59
page
60
page
61
page
62
page
63
page
64
page
65
page
66
page
67
page
68
page
69
page
70
page
71
page
72
page
73
page
74
page
75
page
76
page
77
page
78
page
79
page
80
page
81
page
82
page
83
page
84
page
85
page
86
page
87
page
88
page
89
page
90
page
91
page
92
page
93
page
94
page
95
page
96
page
97
page
98
page
99
page
100
page
101
page
102
page
103
page
104
page
105
page
106
page
107
page
108
page
109
page
110
page
111
page
112
page
113
page
114
page
115
page
116
page
117
page
118
page
119
page
120
page
121
page
122
page
123
page
124
page
125
page
126
page
127
page
128
page
129
page
130
page
131
page
132
page
133
page
134
page
135
page
136
page
137
page
138
page
139
page
140
page
141
page
142
page
143
page
144
page
145
page
146
page
147
page
148
page
149
page
150
page
151
page
152
page
153
page
154
page
155
page
156
page
157
page
158
page
159
page
160
page
161
page
162
page
163
page
164
page
165
page
166
page
167
page
168
page
169
page
170
page
171
page
172
page
173
page
174
page
175
page
176
page
177
page
178
page
179
page
180
page
181
page
182
page
183
page
184
page
185
page
186
page
187
page
188
page
189
page
190
page
191
page
192
page
193
page
194
page
195
page
196
page
197
page
198
page
199
page
200
page 1
page 2
Phobiopolis - Dream IV, part 2
Map Of Phobiopolis
The day is saved. The world rejoices. All that's left is to tidy up loose ends, and close the book.



If you'd like to recommend this story to non-furries, or people in general who might be squeamish about a 'cub site' like Inkbunny, please send them to my stories page on
Relee
Relee
's website: http://alexreynard.electricsquirrel.net

Or would you prefer PDF? https://www.dropbox.com/s/j4b7y6tdxqp210a/Phobiopolis%2...

Keywords
male 879,884, female 762,769, horse 47,173, mouse 39,110, bear 34,816, raccoon 27,077, skunk 24,390, death 7,350, heart 6,662, mutt 3,552, police 2,098, wizard 1,438, novel 1,159, medical 1,129, vacation 585, progress 310, warthog 279, soundtrack 182, stinger 152, outer space 151, ending 122, george 108, robbery 95, road trip 87, construct 66, credits 35, epilogue 29, phobiopolis 16, zinc 14, junella brox 11, toby deleon 11, piffle 10, hamsterfly 9, pictograph 8, dacryphilia 7, coryza 6, marasmus 6, anasarca 6, ectopia cordis 6, fearsleigher 6, rhinolith 5, scaphis tarrare 5, signpost 5, dysania 4, aldridge 4, stoma 4, lumbago 4, lalochezia 4, scarlatina 4, phlogiston 3, trading post 3, luxy bleeder 3, mass transit 2, the blackdamp 2, dengue 2, drill tank 1, avulsion 1, groundgouger 1, paramedics 1, mirroring 1, sideswapping 1, painlauncher 1, acknowledgements 1
Details
Type: Writing - Document
Published: 3 years, 1 month ago
Rating: Mature

MD5 Hash for Page 1... Show Find Identical Posts [?]
Stats
279 views
8 favorites
53 comments

BBCode Tags Show [?]
 
Relee
3 years, 1 month ago
Congratulations, Alex!
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
Couldn't've done it without you, Webmaster!
Alfador
3 years, 1 month ago
Congratulations! May I just say that from a distance, the white-and-gray with pink center of the sixth book's icon reminds me of the Companion Cube?
JunkBox
3 years, 1 month ago
What better to use for a triumphant ending? ;-)
Alfador
3 years, 1 month ago
Quite the huge success.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
Huh. Was not anticipating that.

I just wanted to make it feel noticeably softer after 5's thumbnail.
JunkBox
3 years, 1 month ago
" "Aces, jack! You look like a diamond. Let's go clubbing. I've got money in spades and a heart-on to spend it."

And you're the king of being a total card. Deuce dressed to the nines, you joker.

This is the kind of  denouement that we've come to expect from stories in general. I've always liked your "...for now," implying that this is only the beginning of the journey.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
>And you're the king of being a total card. Deuce dressed to the nines, you joker.

Not bad, not bad! You might just have a career in puns ahead of euchre.

>I've always liked your "...for now," implying that this is only the beginning of the journey.

Even if I never continue the story, I want all of you guys to. I want you to dream about it. Wish for it. Let my characters run around your heads like a playground. Give them stuff to do, so they'll be happy. :)
JunkBox
3 years, 1 month ago
" AlexReynard wrote:
>And you're the king of being a total card. Deuce dressed to the nines, you joker.

Not bad, not bad! You might just have a career in puns ahead of euchre.

Ahead? I've always carried a loaded pun, something you have to do while you're out in the Klondike. Some would say I need to be put in a Cell and never let Free.

" AlexReynard wrote:
Even if I never continue the story, I want all of you guys to. I want you to dream about it. Wish for it. Let my characters run around your heads like a playground. Give them stuff to do, so they'll be happy. :)

Still happening with Dangerous Lunatics, and occasionally, another Hell. Although a certain city full of animals has joined the fun.

I might upload some of the fragments I've come up with. I can dash off characters, and some scenes practically write themselves, but I'm kind of lost for a cohesive story to knit bits together. And I stink at dialogue.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
>I might upload some of the fragments I've come up with. I can dash off characters, and some scenes practically write themselves, but I'm kind of lost for a cohesive story to knit bits together. And I stink at dialogue.

Knowing your weaknesses means you're on the path to improving them. And frankly, sometimes you don't really need to think of a plot first. Develop the characters in your mind to the point where they feel real enough to disobey you. Then just let them bounce around until you get a sense of what kind of situations they'd most likely get themselves into.
ZephonTsol
3 years, 1 month ago
Brace yourself...for the grand finale! :3

M'glad it's done, buddy. Prolly your best ever.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
Many thanks, Z. You definitely helped trim and shape its form. Almost like a personal trainer for the story itself. ;)
chaosblackwing
3 years, 1 month ago
Heh, you included a skeletor, nice. Glad I read through until the very end to catch that little extra.

Yes, yes that will do quite nicely. Wraps up the big stuff well, even some I didn't see coming('If I have to come back here...'), while leaving a potential large enough to throw aircraft carriers through for the future('now that we've warmed up with the easy stuff...').

That... was one hell of a ride. Funny, horrific, epic in just so many ways... I'm already tempted to go through it again now that it's finished to enjoy it once more and pick up at least some of the tidbits I may have missed the first time around.

Stories like this are the reason you are easily in my top favorite authors list.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
>Heh, you included a skeletor, nice. Glad I read through until the very end to catch that little extra.

Someone else calls them skeletors!!! :D

>while leaving a potential large enough to throw aircraft carriers through for the future

I don't know if I have the strength in me to spend another five years writing, but... ideas keep poking at me, man. I know exactly how it could go. <whine of frustration>

>Funny, horrific, epic in just so many ways... I'm already tempted to go through it again now that it's finished to enjoy it once more and pick up at least some of the tidbits I may have missed the first time around.

If you do, let me know! I made sure the story itself is straightforward, but there are a lot of little continuity details and theming I'm proud of. Moments may gain new context the second time around. Plus I hid the occasional stealth pun, cameo, and reference joke here and there.

>Stories like this are the reason you are easily in my top favorite authors list.

[wiggles happily]
chaosblackwing
3 years, 1 month ago
>Someone else calls them skeletors!!! :D

Pretty sure I picked up the term from you actually.

>I don't know if I have the strength in me to spend another five years writing, but... ideas keep poking at me, man. I know exactly how it could go. <whine of frustration>

Ah the eternal curse of the writer, to have the ideas ever popping up, but not know if you can or how to bring them to life.

If you don't, you don't, somehow I don't see you not writing more in the future, and if it's not more Phobopolis, well, this monster of a book will be more than enough, with an actual follow-up just icing on the cake.

>If you do, let me know! I made sure the story itself is straightforward, but there are a lot of little continuity details and theming I'm proud of. Moments may gain new context the second time around. Plus I hid the occasional stealth pun, cameo, and reference joke here and there.

Speaking of little tidbits...

[Spoiler]Fed by an IV drip. He could be anywhere from his mid-thirties to late forties. Guy's a skeleton."[/Spoiler]

... how the hell I missed that in the first go around is beyond me, and if I missed something like that in the first go through I can't imagine what I missed in the rest of the story. My first though is time dilation similar to hell, except cranked up to 11, and if that is the case Toby's musing on where future 'residents' could come from could happen a lot sooner than he might think, at least from his perspective.
Alfador
3 years, 1 month ago
It is mentioned that adults who come to Phobiopolis start out as kids again. >:3
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
And Toby didn't notice because he's pretty much always had the self-image of him as a kid. Plus I never mentioned any mirrors in his room.
chaosblackwing
3 years, 1 month ago
>It is mentioned that adults who come to Phobiopolis start out as kids again. >:3

Oh I caught that part, it just never occurred to me to apply it to him, which was apparently intended. Forget the paramedics asking how he was still alive, stuck in a single room for decades it's a wonder he was still sane.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
>Pretty sure I picked up the term from you actually.

That would explain it!

>If you don't, you don't, somehow I don't see you not writing more in the future, and if it's not more Phobopolis, well, this monster of a book will be more than enough, with an actual follow-up just icing on the cake.

I'm probably gonna do something shorter and easier next. I've been thinking about maybe a fanfic for Sweet Juice Castle.

>... how the hell I missed that in the first go around is beyond me

Because I made sure I never mentioned it. Though, if you do read it a second time, take note that I tried to never, ever refer to him as 'young'. And 'boy' only when the sentence is from someone else's perspective.

:3
chaosblackwing
3 years, 1 month ago
>I'm probably gonna do something shorter and easier next. I've been thinking about maybe a fanfic for Sweet Juice Castle.

Never heard of it/them(?), and the mind's not coming up with any hits, what's that?

>Because I made sure I never mentioned it. Though, if you do read it a second time, take note that I tried to never, ever refer to him as 'young'. And 'boy' only when the sentence is from someone else's perspective.

'If', heh.

Yeah, that's the sort of thing that makes for an interesting second re-read, something learned later that changes how you see what came before.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
>Never heard of it/them(?), and the mind's not coming up with any hits, what's that?

Suuuuper obscure 80s cartoon. Very much a part of the cute pastel animals phase, like Care Bears and Wuzzles and Shirt Tales and My Little Ponies. Surprisingly decent show.

>Yeah, that's the sort of thing that makes for an interesting second re-read, something learned later that changes how you see what came before.

I didn't want to do an M. Night shyamalan-type twist that the entire story has to rest on. Just one that makes you pause and go, "...Huh."
MrZero
3 years, 1 month ago
After every program on my tablet refused to access the first Phobopolis segment, I started reading the Inferno books by Niven and Pournelle. I'm almost done the second and last one, and now that you're done created Phobo', are there any collected-into-one-file versions?
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
Huh.

You've tried Relee's website? You've tried the PDFs?
MrZero
3 years, 1 month ago
OK that seems to work. Don't know why, other than screwy computers with screwy individual OS. The rtf's are still screwed though.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
Good to hear! Dunno why some computers don't like RTFs. I like 'em.

Let me know how you enjoy it once you read it. :)
MrZero
3 years, 1 month ago
Electric Squirrel site has the story in the same way it is here- you've got to download each chapter of each Numeral. It make things, let's say, not convenient for offline reading. Just PDF the whole thing. Or epub. If it's meant to be read like a book, why tie us to inkbunny to read it?
Also, not read the whole thing yet, but it's a positive review. Good story structure, good style, writer's favorite themes are there but hasn't (yet?) gone full Grumblysnooke.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
>Just PDF the whole thing.

I thought a PDF of each book was enough. Would one of the whole book lag? I dunno if PDFs lag.

>Also, not read the whole thing yet, but it's a positive review. Good story structure, good style, writer's favorite themes are there but hasn't (yet?) gone full Grumblysnooke.

Wait'll you get to the candy bars. ;)
Alfador
3 years, 1 month ago
PDFs tend to load as they go. I dunno how you'd go about converting it to e-reader formats for things like Kindles but PDF ought to be reliable and universal enough to load on anything. My phone loads very image-heavy RPG handbooks alright.
chaosblackwing
3 years, 1 month ago
>I dunno how you'd go about converting it to e-reader formats for things like Kindles

Download .rtf, load into Calibre, and convert into .mobi(or whatever format you need) is what I've done, and it seems to work well enough, though the text is a little wonky with the epilogue(Probably the heuristic processing option not liking paragraph after paragraph of italics).
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
>the heuristic processing option not liking paragraph after paragraph of italics

Racism!!!
Kanada
3 years, 1 month ago
Congrats dude^^
Be proud, this one is a mighty tome and well worth the read/time/effort you put into it.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
Thanks super much, dear Sir Redcat.
Blackraven2
3 years, 1 month ago
Holy hell, you did it.


Congrats, Alex, this is shit gone real.


Loved

Every

Word
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
^__^ So glad to hear. Thank you, amigo. I'm glad I can make stories people care about.
KichigaiKitsune
3 years, 1 month ago
I cannot fucking wait to read this, dude. I'll get back to you soon! :D
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
Great! Might wanna start at the beginning though. ;)
KichigaiKitsune
3 years, 1 month ago
DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO. *starts reading backwards... out loud... with eyes glowing an ominous crimson*
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
<sprays Visine at you>
KichigaiKitsune
3 years, 1 month ago
*blinks a few times* ... Oh. *turns to first page*
chaosblackwing
3 years, 1 month ago
Well now, second go-around was certainly interesting. No huge revelations came to mind, but there was one that started niggling me a ways in, and knowing who they were travelling with certainly added a certain flavor to the story.

As for that niggling thought, I think it really came to the forefront when it was revealed what species Aldridge was, and it occurred to me that in a way Toby is his mirror. More than just power(and by the end I have to wonder just how the two would stack up if the wand and The Word were taken out of the equation, given Toby regularly just flat out ignored the 'rules' and willed things to happen), Adridge struck me as what Toby was before he was forced to confront the various lessons of Phobiopolis. Much like early Toby with his ideals of good and evil, Aldridge refused to acknowledge that sometimes you have to get your hands dirty in order to prevent greater evil, and because he refused or couldn't do so Scrappy was let loose.

Anyway, no idea how intentional that was, but it was something that was floating around as I read the latter parts, which, while not having the punch of that first read(unfortunate, but just how it works) was still more than enough to keep my attention for the time it took me.
AlexReynard
3 years, 1 month ago
>and it occurred to me that in a way Toby is his mirror.

Absofrigginlutely. I'm very glad you picked up on that. I really wanted to do more than just the hero's journey here. I wanted to dig into what a hero is, and if that means adhering to a certain code of morals, or doing what needs to be done to save the day, or both. Aldridge and Toby are both softies at heart. Difference is, Aldridge wasn't mentored by Junella. ;)
Rathsari
2 years, 8 months ago
Binge read the whole thing over the course of a week of free time, I'm really glad I gave it a chance. Even though there was a modest pile of world building decisions I disliked (mainly how the physical realm of the story is literally Earth with furries, makes all the references pretty jarring, the story probably could have been a lot more marketable if had just used humans and it wouldn't really have lost much, but ah well) it's still an amazing, insane, whimsical, and horrifying addition to the monomyth genre that reminds me heavily of such surrealists like China Meiville.

Pretty much the only scene that sticks in my mind as actually bad, is Toby's actual death scene, and for several reasons. It's a tightly bound convergence of events connected only by pure coincidence. The mugger stopping in to give the hero an acceptable target is so, so overdone nowadays that it's practically impossible to do it seriously without the reader rolling eyes so hard it hurts. The people finding Toby in a coma did kind of add some tension, and did suggest that it would resolve with him waking up as many classic displaced fantasy stories go, but honestly that twist was hardly unexpected at that point. Ultimately, all the scene was, was a totally unnecessary moment of bravado, and one last moment of undeserved pain. There were no choices made, no real growth, and honestly it cuts off far more potential than it adds. Finally, on top of those structural problems is the pretty big plot hole that Dysphoria somehow accurately showed Tony how his mother died, when the whole point of the place was that it lies about everything.

Narratively, the death of Toby's mom is a huge let down, even if Tony did manage to move on. Her cruelty destroyed at least two lives and in a narrative where not even death can truly interrupt a personal story, she got off way too easily. Not saying that she needs to be punished for karma sake, just that as the effective lynchpin of the entire setup of the story, she was discarded before her own character arc got a chance to resolve rather than just being hit by a bus and forgotten.

I'm not entirely sold on that sequel hook of going out to punch shithulhu, that sounds like simply a terrible idea in every way, and even trying to awaken the star being might be just as bad for the place, even if it's fundamentally more good, the result could easily be a cataclysm of Titans with a result worse than the status quo. I really like the cosmology of PP's origin though, and with a little twisting, the result is a 'verse full of fragments of Titans turned into settlements for lost souls.

I can't wait to read the prequel/side story of J and Z, and I hope you keep writing for this world.
AlexReynard
2 years, 8 months ago
For starters, thank you for well-thought-out constructive criticism! I like hearing, 'It was good!' but this is more useful.

>Binge read the whole thing over the course of a week of free time, I'm really glad I gave it a chance.

DAMN, SON. I'm not sure even I could do that and I wrote the damn thing!

>mainly how the physical realm of the story is literally Earth with furries

That's just my style for everything I write. <shrug> I do like writing for furries though, not just because of fond cartoon childhood memories, but because they eliminate a lot of bullshit when writing for humans (Will I seem prejudiced if not enough characters are [this minority]? Will it sem stereotypical to make [that minority] act such-and-such?). You can convey character traits with species in a way that isn't so simple with humans. I have a timid mouse, a cuddly hamster, a defensive skunk, a laid-back dog, a quiet cat and a steadfast horse. Easy.

>it's still an amazing, insane, whimsical, and horrifying addition to the monomyth genre that reminds me heavily of such surrealists like China Meiville.

Have not heard of them. I'm interested though. And I was definitely aware of the Hero's Journey. I wanted to both follow it, subvert it in places, but mostly just do things with it I haven't seen most fantasy stories do. A big one was making sure the world was not just a dream, but would exist independently of the protagonist. And that Toby earns his victories. Good does not win purely for being good; evil does not lose purely because it is evil.

>It's a tightly bound convergence of events connected only by pure coincidence.

Of all the things I might have thought it'd be called, I never thought coincidental. I wanted it to be like a real-life tragedy, in that it just hits you out of nowhere,a t a random time, for no reason.

>The mugger stopping in to give the hero an acceptable target is so, so overdone nowadays

I suppose.I did hope to convey that this type of thing happens frequently. Actually, I should have put in a line or so where Sander says he could have handled it, and Toby says he just wanted to help out.

>Ultimately, all the scene was, was a totally unnecessary moment of bravado, and one last moment of undeserved pain. There were no choices made, no real growth, and honestly it cuts off far more potential than it adds.

It was done for the simple reason of, I am sick of stories where the hero wakes up. This story is about letting go of a bad past and building a new future. Toby's here now; this is his life. It's meant to show that change can be scary in the moment, but ultimately, it may not change as much as it seems.

>the pretty big plot hole that Dysphoria somehow accurately showed Tony how his mother died, when the whole point of the place was that it lies about everything.

That's a good point. I think I more wanted to imply that Toby himself knew, subconsciously? I should fix this.

>she was discarded before her own character arc got a chance to resolve rather than just being hit by a bus and forgotten.

Frankly, I thought that's all she deserved. And all anyone could really expect with her trajectory.

>and even trying to awaken the star being might be just as bad for the place, even if it's fundamentally more good, the result could easily be a cataclysm of Titans with a result worse than the status quo.

So, you realize exactly the same problems I have. Excellent. :3

>I can't wait to read the prequel/side story of J and Z, and I hope you keep writing for this world.

I couldn't stop ideas for a full sequel from pouring in even before the last chapters were finished. It will probably take another five years, but nothing else is pulling as strongly. Plus, now we have a hero who is limitlessly powerful. What does a furson DO with that?
Rathsari
2 years, 8 months ago
>Plus, now we have a hero who is limitlessly powerful. What does a furson DO with that?

There's three general ways a max level character is dealt with. You let them retire and pick up a new character sheet. That raccoon girl who showed up in the mountain boom montage looks like a good candidate. You give them a goal that their power doesn't apply to, usually a social obstacle rather than a physical one, see one punch man or any story where the super powered teenager is struggling with grades. Third option, change the rules.

One idea that could work is simply making the living constellations actual places. George flies up far enough toward The Bear, and with a conceptual shift, suddenly it's a real world sized afterlife, and PP is just a half ring of stars, a broken remnant of what it should be. Give Loggyboi some infected minions, some of the Dysphoria evacuees, who have been driven to go out and bring back key elements from living star beasts. If the magic of the other team is different enough, all his gear is useless or worse, and none of the natives know him, so none of his reputation or supplies are Vitale but he still needs to find and stop the antagonist before the give Log a Titan sized alarm clock and mug of coffee.
AlexReynard
2 years, 8 months ago
>There's three general ways a max level character is dealt with. You let them retire and pick up a new character sheet. That raccoon girl who showed up in the mountain boom montage looks like a good candidate.

I have plans for her. But I specifically don't want to move away from a character now that they're harder to write for. Superman is a great character when people take the time to understand _why_ he can be great. That's what interests me.

>You give them a goal that their power doesn't apply to, usually a social obstacle rather than a physical one, see one punch man or any story where the super powered teenager is struggling with grades.

I do believe we have a winner...

>One idea that could work is simply making the living constellations actual places.

This is one hell of an idea. I really hate turning it down, because I'd love to see this as a story! If you wanna do a fanfic, have at it!

But naw, wheels are already in motion. This book set up the next one more than anyone realizes. <eeeevil grin>
RassyEyefur
2 years, 8 months ago
That ribbon you used there was beautiful, a story stunningly wrapped to perfection, with just that little hint at a new adventure should the urge ever take your fancy.

Thank you so much for sharing this story with us all.  It has been absolutely wonderful.

From the bottom of my heart I salute you!  (That phrase although sincere rings a bell for some reason… Oh crap, oh well if you ever work out the reference let me assure you, I don't wish to shoot you.)

I discovered that sometimes dumbfounding actually works. I couldn't find my keys anywhere. so every so often I would think of an unlikely place they might have gone. However I consciously didn't think to much about how likely it was that they could possibly have ended up there. On the fourth try, of just shoving my hand blindly (because hands don't have eyes) in to a place that had randomly just popped into my head. My hand came back with my keys grasped tightly in my fingers. Hey it's no ace, but I really had looked everywhere for these things and they just shouldn't have been able to get where I found them.

I think I came up with another kind of nightmare I'm not sure you covered in the crazy world "A logic or maths problem that appeared to have 2 different but equally correct answers at the same time." It really messed with my head at 3:30am a few weeks ago when I was on my way to work and I mentally stuffed up some simple maths when working out how long I had before I would miss my train.  At the time when I tried to work out the answer using two different methods I got two answers. Now as we all know in maths there can only ever be one right answer. So this was seriously screwing with my head and I was getting rather worked up over how I could get 7 and 5 minutes in answer to the same question, just by doing the maths via two different methods.  Both method seemed easy and I was sure I hadn't made any mistakes. So it was making me question both reality and why I wasn't still sound asleep in a nice warm bed instead of on a push bike in -2 degrees C heading into a train station.

Just to recap, you did good! real good!
AlexReynard
2 years, 8 months ago
>That ribbon you used there was beautiful, a story stunningly wrapped to perfection, with just that little hint at a new adventure should the urge ever take your fancy.

It's already urged. I have too damn many ideas for it, and no idea if I'll ever have the time. :/

>Thank you so much for sharing this story with us all.  It has been absolutely wonderful.

You're very, very welcome!

>I discovered that sometimes dumbfounding actually works.

Huh. That is not something I've tried, but I could give it a shot sometime.

>So it was making me question both reality and why I wasn't still sound asleep in a nice warm bed instead of on a push bike in -2 degrees C heading into a train station.

I've certainly had dreams comparable to that, of trying to do a task, and when I look back the conditions for doing it have changed. Taking photographs in dreams usually turns out like, I look at the viewfinder, look back, the thing is significantly different, I try again, ad nauseum.

>Just to recap, you did good! real good!

^__^
pumathegrand11
9 months, 1 week ago
I really wonder what level of hell toby’s mom got sent to🤔.
AlexReynard
9 months, 1 week ago
Hard to say, since she's obviously crazy as shit. Even I'm not sure to what degree she's aware of right and wrong. Hopefully the Hellguardians can figure that out.
pumathegrand11
9 months, 1 week ago
that raises another thing I’ve been wondering about, is hell aware of the existence of Phobiopolis and if so what do they do with that knowledge?
AlexReynard
9 months, 1 week ago
Now, now.

I can't give away the game too early.
pumathegrand11
9 months, 1 week ago
I smell a CROSSOVER!
AlexReynard
9 months, 1 week ago
Hopefully. Maybe. Like, five years from now if I can make myself write a big thing again. -__-
New Comment:
Move reply box to top
Log in or create an account to comment.