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The Witch, The Boy, The Tower is the first installment in the three part Shapeshifter Trilogy. Written by Exotoro, the story follows a boy as he attempts to rescue his parents with the help of a salacious witch who gives him shapeshifter powers.

Summary

The Witch, The Boy, The Tower is the story of Orion, a boy whose parents are kidnapped by a mysterious organization that uses magic in a modern day society. Orion sets out towards the Moth-Husk Tower, where he comes across a ribald witch named Eris that will help him at the cost of his soul. By trading his soul, Orion gains the power of shape-shifting, which becomes vital to the plan to invade Moth-Husk Tower.

Chapters

Chapter 1: The Beginning

Into a colorless ocean… lies a red glowing stone known only as the philosopher's stone. Countless hands have tried, and failed, to get their grasp on it. It’s alchemical properties make it a beyond priceless artifact, several trillion dollars would be underselling it vastly.

It was picked up by a woman in scuba gear.

She was reeled back into the submarine with the glowing stone in her hand. It radiated, almost pulsed in a strange, sensory way. A symbol, embossed in gold, was a circle around a triangle that held a square with a circle inside. The symbol of impossible irrationality. She set it on a table and made her way over to her husband, who was currently steering the vehicle.

“Well, there we go, we have the philosopher's stone.” she said, beaming brightly. “We’re not gonna do anything with it though, right?” she said, a bit sternly. The husband laughed.

“Not unless we have a crisis which is sensible to use it. We keep it out of everyone else’s hands.” he said. The woman removed her scuba gear and sat on the velvet couch, placing her glasses on. She shook her short black, freeing her tightened nerves. She stared out the window.

“You know I’m pregnant, right?” she asked. He didn’t pause.

“Yeah.” he said, simply.

“You know what it means, right?” she asked him. “We can’t keep doing this. We have a kid now…” she said, sighing as she did. The husband set the submarine on autopilot and walked over to her as he put his hand on her shoulder.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” asked the husband. The woman was holding back tears. She gasped heavily, as if she was running out of air.

“Yes but… whenever Kumail Jr. or whatever his name ends up being, comes into this world, that means everything we’ve been up to is gonna come to an end. We’re not gonna be able to do anything more than this. We’re gonna… be boring” she said, a slight laughter cracking the end of her sentence. The father tucked her head into his tanned arms.

“You will never be boring to me, Rebecca.” he said.

She smiled a bit. “Well, in that case, neither will you, Kumail,” she glanced over to the philosopher's stone and then back at Kumail. “This is a good way to go out, I feel.”

“We could join the 1000 Leagues Under the Sea club…” he said teasingly. She slapped him playfully and then looked into his eyes.

“Mmm… alright. Don’t go too rough though…” she said coyly as she was about to slip off her pants. An loud alarm suddenly blasted the room, red lights going berserk. Their horniness had faded into panic. “SHIT!” she said as she headed towards the harpoon gun. Through her scope she could see a black submarine with red teeth in crimson paint on the ship’s hull. Through the murky glass she could see them.

“It’s the GaGun!” Kumail shouted.

“I know!” she shot back. She lined up the harpoon shot and fired away. The ship erupted into a explosion, the hull of the GaGun’s ship torn. The metal was peeling back inwards, the explosion happening slowly backwards. She saw it hit, what? “Something… ain’t right…” she muttered as she launched another explosive harpoon at the ship.

“It’s useless,” said Kumail in a defeated tone. “They must have learned about some kind of time reversal spell...” Rebecca sighed. The GaGun were always adept in magic but if they could just peel back their efforts… what was the point? She centered the harpoon gun on the murky glass of the GaGun’s ship. She had the smallest suspicion that if she could line this shot directly through this dude’s head…

It shot through the water, breaking the musty and dirty glass, going through a man’s head, and then hitting the wall, exploding. The GaGun ship was beginning to sink. Rebecca relaxed herself but soon found that she was not in the clear. The GaGun fired two torpedoes from it’s sinking corspe, landing directly on the ship. Kumail ran over to the suits and Rebecca grabbed the stone.

The two exited out of the sinking submarine and swam to the surface. They found themselves a couple of miles from a shore. “Well, how are we gonna get all the way there?” asked Rebecca. Kumail shrugged as he kept himself afloat. Rebecca looked at the philosopher's stone and sighed. “This is a crisis, yes?”

Kumail nodded. Rebecca remembered what she read and attempted to activate the stone. Nothing happened. She was becoming frustrated and began hitting it. “Don’t tell me we got a fake!” she yelled out, almost about to cry. Suddenly, a bright yellow light blasted out of the symbol on the stone, converting some of the water in some wooden planks. Rebecca hoisted herself onto one of the planks and began paddling, with Kumail following shortly.

They made their way to shore a couple of exhausting hours later. As Rebecca, completely soaked sat on the sand to rest, Kumail looked around for a pay phone, something to contact a friend. Rebecca glanced at the stone, looking it’s pulsing red nature.

THE WITCH, THE BOY, THE TOWER
SHAPESHIFTER PART 1

Chapter 2: The Boy

Nothing amazing happens here.

Not here, in the town of Polybius. The town was a beach town but that didn’t really matter as the beach was mostly desolate of tourists or anyone for that matter. It was often cluttered with trash and no effort was done to try and clean it up. All it did was clutter the streets with sand, from the strong breezes in the spring. It never rained here either, so it just… stuck there in the sidewalk, the little holes of buildings, in the inner linings of a drain gutter…

The only interesting thing about the town was the arcade and the Silverburg Peanut Factory. The arcade had been up for years and there had been a rumor that long ago, there was an arcade machine that caused unbelievable nausea and nightmares. This seemed pretty untrue as nobody had ever seen the damn thing, but people insisted it had existed and was still in the arcade somewhere in the back areas. The Silverburg Peanut Factory was the home to America’s number one brand of peanuts. It wasn’t too interesting aside from that.

Orion was born to a mother and father named Rebecca and Kumail, respectively. Kumail hailed from Pakistan and Rebecca hailed from England. Kumail worked as an accountant in an office owned by a construction company that Orion didn’t care to know the name of. Rebecca worked in a biology lab but again, Orion wasn’t exactly sure what she did beyond that.

After school, he would venture out into the more rural parts of Polybius on his lonesome. He ventured over to a sunny cast construction of a highway bridge, over by a pond that had previously been a lake, and into the mall where he had made friends with a female clerk who sold robots. He knew Polybius pretty well by now and he could safely say that it had nothing going on with it. In and out; nothing amazing was happening.

He was walking down the sidewalk when he came across a broken vending machine. It lay on it’s side, it’s glass damaged and a vast mixture of energy drinks and soda dripping out from its sides. He looked at the mess with a small curiosity… who would do such a thing? Why? As he pondered over the machine, someone in a white colored motorcycle helmet walked behind him.

Orion turned around to look at the man. The man’s hands motioned as if he were trying to speak, but Orion couldn’t understand what he was getting at. The man pointed to the brick building next to them and Orion noticed nothing. The man gave up and went on his way.

Nothing amazing happens here.

Orion was home before dusk and in time for dinner. Rebecca was concerned about getting her family to try new things, so she made vegetable lasagna. It was stuffed with green peppers, mushrooms, onions… no meat. It was a hard eat. Kumail ate it easily and went back for seconds but Orion couldn’t help but express his disappointment over a lasagna without meat.

“Where’s the meat?” he asked. Rebecca paused.

“Well, lasagna only refers to the type of noodles used to make it. It took me an hour and a half to make it, so you should eat it.” she said, her fork with lasagna motioning in the air, practically about to slide off.

He had finished about half of the meal when Kumail and Rebecca placed their dishes in the sink. Orion threw the remains in the trash and put the dish in the dishwasher. It was getting late out. Orion looked through his homework, becoming less and less motivated to do any of it as he looked through his math homework.

After three hours of procrastination and fifteen minutes of actual work later, Orion headed to bed. They had no computer or TV to speak of, which was the primary reason that Orion was still going outside so much. The clerk at the robot store was surprised to hear that, but Orion didn’t seem to be phased too much by the lack of it in his life.

He closed his eyes and headed off to sleep.

Nothing amazing happened here.

Chapter 3: The Kidnapping

The day started out the standard way. Wake up at 8am, head off to school after getting a quick breakfast, and then head back home on the route that the bus dropped Orion off at. Where it began to become something different was the second he actually went to the house.

There was a lot of malicious looking cars in the driveway. A insignia of a moth with a pair of cartoonish, sharp teeth for wings was on the side and hoods of the cars. Orion snuck around the cars, curious as to what was happening. He had never seen anything like it.

The door burst open with three men in red suits. One carried his unconscious mother on his right shoulder, one carried his unconscious father on his left shoulder, and the other held a red stone in both of his hands. They piled into the cars and sped off. Orion chased after them.

Full panic mode. He was nowhere near them considering how fast they were going, but he had a lot of shortcuts to help him out. Past the pond, past the bristle prick bushes, past the radio towers… they were heading to the beach. Orion slid down a hill and hopped over a set of white fences to see the cars stop.

They unloaded in the same fashion that they had left the house. A black submarine bobbed towards the shore of the beach. A fourth man approached the three men. He had something to say.

“You have Rebecca and Kumail right? What about the Philosopher's Stone?” asked the fourth man. The third man, holding the Philosopher's Stone, approached. The fourth man was relieved. “Well, he’ll be pleased.” said the fourth man. The sun glared in his eyes and was clearly irritating him.

Orion was still so confused. He hadn’t had the slightest clue what was going on and he was very exhausted. Something gave him just a bit of extra energy when he saw his parents loaded in the submarine a couple of minutes later. He waited for the four men to depart and then ran out into the sand, looking for something to help him out…

By the lone wooden dock was a small fishing boat tied to a string. He unfastened the knot around the dock and jumped into the boat, grasping a paddle. He tried to remember what his father had taught him while fishing a long time ago, and while he wasn’t exactly fast with it, he seemed to have a decent handle of the boat.

He followed the sleek black metal top of the ship, it reminded him a lot of a whale’s characteristics. Too big to be hidden, so to say. In time though, his lack of energy finally caught up to him.

His arms ached like broken joints on a machine. He wasn’t too far out from shore but he was straining every paddle stroke. His energy had gone. Despite this, he tried to follow the submarine that was not only getting further and further away, but was also starting to become hard to see at all.

His eyes closed for a long time.

Chapter 4: The Riverhouse

Orion’s eyes slowly awoke to the silence of a river. He sat up from the fishing boat, his body aching as he got up. The reflections of hundred year old trees were in the water, giving the place an otherworldly feel to it. As he sat in the fishing boat, hearing the utter silence, he realized he was unbelievably alone. The boat floated softly on the flat river, gently rocking ever so slowly.

In the distance he spotted a house floating on the river. He paddled over to the house, which stayed where it was even as the river pushed against it. A school of fish swam past his boat and the house. Orion stood up in the boat and stepped onto the wooden platform, which wobbled ever so slightly as he stepped onto it. Was anyone home?

He knocked on the wooden door, held in by a wooden arch. He wasn’t expecting an answer but he was surprised to see a bald old Asian man answer the door. The man looked at Orion for a bit before asking a question.

“Who are you?” asked the man.

“Orion.” Orion answered simply. He had a slight nervous tic in his voice.

“Orion…” the man said out loud, pausing as he said the boy’s name. “Orion, Orion, Orion…” he repeated over and over. The boy stayed silent. “Well, come in.” the man said.

The boy entered the house. It looked more like a temple with carvings over the walls and floors and a statue in the center of the far wall. Four lanterns burned lightly in the four corners of the room, lit by candle flame. The old man sat on the floor of the house and folded his legs inwards towards each other. He was meditating.

Orion stood awkwardly for five minutes before the man opened his mouth again. “Go with my daughter and pick out some berries. She’s behind the riverhouse.” he said. Daughter?

Orion opened the door and headed to the back of the house where a girl sat on a stump with a bucket of fish. She had jet black hair and a white simple dress, her eyes closed. She opened them suddenly to see Orion staring back at her. “Your dad wanted us to pick berries.” he said, unsure why her father did. She got up from the stump and carried the fish bucket with her, stashing it inside of a polished wooden box with ice filled inside. She shut the box in silence.

“Well, who are you?” she asked, tilting her head to the side like an owl.

“Orion.” he plainly replied. The girl dipped the bucket into the water, filling it up with concentrated aqua. She looked over by the nearby grass and then dumped the bucket out. She shook it violently, Orion almost certain the thin metal handle would fly off. Then she paused and headed over to the edge of the wooden platform, looking at the grass.

“You gotta jump.” she said. Her bare feet flexed their toes and brushed up against the wood before smoothing out. She stepped back with the bucket in her hand and then began to run, taking a flying leap just as she hit the edge of the platform. She landed on the grass with plenty of landing area.

Orion followed suit, following what she had just done. She smiled, likely glad she wasn’t going to have to fish him out of the water.

“I told you my name, tell me yours.” he said as they walked into the path of bushes and rocks. She simply ignored his request, glancing about at the bushes. She came across a small bush that had strawberries dangling off their small green vines and popped a couple off and plopped them into the bucket. She found a particularly red one and squished it with her thumb and index fingers, splattering into a red mess.

“Hey, why are you doing that?” he asked. She looked at him.

“It’s a good color.” she said. She dropped the remains of the strawberry on the ground. He found a bunch of blueberries in a small shrubbery and grabbed a couple with his hands, as much as he could carry. He tried to drop them in the bucket but the girl’s expression told him to lay off and let her figure it out. She grabbed one of the blueberries and like the strawberry, squished it into a blue explosive.

She let him dump the rest in. They did this for a hour and Orion watched as the sun ticked down and small yellow dots filled the nearby spaces and crevices. Lightning bugs. Some landed in her hair, but she did not mind. Her hair looked like the cosmos and she wasn’t worse off for it.

But he had to go. He had wasted a day out here, asleep in a boat for fishing when he could be out to rescue his parents. He asked one more time. “What’s your name?”

“Hachi.” she said plainly. Orion looked at the stars and then to the bucket.

“Do you suppose we have enough?” he asked. She looked at him puzzlingly. “Of the berries, I mean.” she looked down.

“Yes, I suppose.” she said as she headed out to the river bank. She walked back and then headed into a flying jump, miraculously having none of their efforts spilling out. She placed the bucket on top of the fish box. She jumped back onto the grass and grabbed a bunch of sticks to start a fire.

Orion stared at his fishing boat. He would head off tomorrow, as much as he didn’t really want to. He could stay here forever with Hachi if he wanted, he supposed… but would it ultimately be the best choice? He couldn’t say.

Hachi picked up the bucket to open the fish box and grabbed a couple of fish to bake over the fire. He was falling for her, wasn’t he? He knew he couldn’t stay. He knew this as he ate the fish she baked and talked to her by the fire, but he also kept pushing the question “What if?” in his mind. It echoed into his dream that night as he slept against a green mat.

He woke up with the early sun in his eyes and a golden colored river below him. Hachi was fishing behind the house. He stood there in silence, wondering if he meant anything to her or if he would ever see her again if he left.

He said nothing as he headed towards the boat. He had to leave with his feelings for her packed away because there was no point in telling her. He looked back and saw that the riverhouse was gone… but his feelings for Hachi packed all too deep inside in a way that felt like he had been posioned. He fell into a slumber once again.

Chapter 5: The Witch

He awoke on the shore of a big beach. Nobody was here, it must be too early or perhaps nobody lived here. He brushed the sand off his shoes as he headed towards a more rocky environment, one with giant mountains beckoning the sky for rain.

An vulture flew into the sky, it’s grey black talons outstretched with it’s mangly neck all the way out. Orion tried not to look like a corpse in it’s presence, but with the blinding sun in his eyes, he couldn’t help it.

Not that the vulture was even after him, instead circling about the corpse of a lion. Orion averted his eyes and headed towards a cave, where he was certain it would be cooler and away from the sun. Inside the cave he went, his assumptions correct. He looked around the cave, noticing a strange amount of personal objects. Books, clothes, food wrappers… he soon found his hand against an iron gate. The iron door was unlocked and slightly open.

He curiously ventured inside. The room was a lot messier and smelled godawful, although he wasn’t familiar with what could produce such a godawful odor. A single tall torch illuminated this room. He looked to his left to see a sleeping woman.

The woman wore nothing but a bluish black bikini, a pair of leather boots, and a witch hat that was covering her face but not her blonde hair. She had her feet up on a treasure chest. She snored loudly with one of her hands down her bikini bottom.

He turned to leave but accidentally knocked over a pot hanging on a pedestal, because that was obviously the best place for such a weighted object. It made a loud clanging sound and the witch stopped snoring and lifted her head in a way that nearly knocked her hat off her head. She grabbed onto it and readjusted it back on.

“Who’s there?” she asked. She looked around the room and scratched her butt. She had a face that was pretty and flawless, although nothing too stand-out. She spotted Orion about thirty seconds after she had asked the initial question. “What are you doing here, kid?”

Orion initially had no answer but she crossed her arms, waiting. Orion attempted to explain. “Well, I was coming back from school when I saw these guys take my mom and dad, with this red stone and I chased them down the beach where they went into this submarine and took off… I took this fishing boat and attempted to follow them but I went out like-” he snapped his fingers. “Then I woke up in a river with this house floating on the river and there was this girl and I helped her pick some berries and I left after that. I also… fell asleep again and wound up on the shores of here.”

“Yeah, sounds like an adventure,” she said, with no enthusiasm in her voice. “Well, you probably shouldn’t be here so I advise you exit my cave.”

“Your cave’s kind of a mess.” he said, looking around.

“Hey, at least I know where everything is.” she retorted. Well, that was a low blow, but he supposed it was true.

“Well, how am I supposed to get out of here? Where am I?” he asked. The witch paused and then turned around.

“Well, you can figure that out, it’s not my problem how you’re supposed to get out of here. As for where you are… eh, it’s just America.” she said.

“But the lion outside…” he said, thinking back to the dead lion he saw outside. “Lions aren’t native to America.”

“Christ, you know that but can’t figure out that I summoned it?” she said. She shook her head. “Dumb fuckin’ kids...”

“Wait, why did you summon a lion?” he asked. She was about to tell him but then stopped.

“That manner is private.” she said, turning around quickly as she said it, and then heading over to a bookcase.

“Well, can you help me or not?” asked Orion. The witch turned to him and gave him a stink-eye.

“Could I?” she mockingly said. “What’s your dumb parents’ names anyway?”

“Uh…” he thought quickly, as he wasn’t used to referring to them by their real names. “...Rebecca and Kumail.” he said.

She stopped. “You said Rebecca and Kumail, right?” she asked, a strange tone in her voice rising, one of intrigue.

“Yeah.” he said.

“As in the treasure hunters Rebecca and Kumail?” she asked, her voice growing more excited.

“Treasure hunters?” asked Orion. He shook his head.

“Oh, then I don’t care then.” she said, looking through the book shelf again.

“Please.” said Orion with a begging tone in his voice.

“Look, I can’t just help one guy and then expect people not to go to me for everything they need help with. I mean, your story is just sketchy and your parents aren’t even the fucking Rebecca and Kumail I know… so I just have no reason to reasonably help you.” she said.

“Well, I don’t know, my mom and dad never told me about their treasure hunting days. Would they keep a secret?” asked Orion.

“...maybe. Some people keep dumb things a secret. Not me though.” she said.

“Wait, what about summoning the lion? You kept that a secret.” he said.

“Well, if I told you, you probably wouldn’t want help from me. I like that attention which is why I’m relishing it so much. See? I’m honest as shit.” she said.

“Well, what about helping me then?” asked Orion.

“Alright. Fine, I’ll help you.” she said. She headed towards the bookcase and pulled out a book bigger than most of her body and set it on a table much smaller than it. She flipped open the giant-sized pages, with words about the size of Orion’s hands. She scoured over the pages, leaning into it and nearly tipping over when she found something.

“Aha! Plasma Eye Beams.” she said, pointing to the words.

“I don’t get how that’s gonna help me.” he said.

“Shit, you’re probably right. Okay, fuck… uh, what about this?” she said, pointing to the word “Shapeshifting”.

“Shapeshifting?” asked Orion. “What would that do to help find my parents?”

“Well, I mean you could probably turn into an eagle, get a bird’s eye view of the world and shit. There’s a lot of advantages to shapeshifting… god knows that I’ve used a couple of them…” she said, appearing to drift to a dreaming state of mind.

“Well, alright, I guess a versatile set of abilities would probably help,” said Orion. “What do I do to get them?”

“Give me your soul.” said the witch.

“Excuse me?” asked Orion. He was taken aback by her proposal.

“Yeah, give me your soul, that’s the only way this shit’s gonna work. Your soul is you and shapeshifting doesn’t work with people with souls. You’ll be fine, you’ll barely know you’re missing it.” she explained.

“I dunno… there are a lot of stories about selling your soul and they all don’t end well.” he said.

“You’re not selling your soul- you’re just putting it in this jar for a bit.” she said, holding up a empty glass jar. It had a blue plastic lid on it.

“You’re sure about this?” asked Orion. The witch seemed offended.

“Hey, if you don’t trust me, leave. I’m already missing my soul and I’m fine.” said the witch.

“Alright-” he said and then paused. “What’s your name?”

“Why the hell do you want know?” said the witch. Orion shrugged.

“I mean, I told you my parent’s names. I’m Orion. There, I told you my name. I wanna know the name of the person who takes my soul, you know?” replied Orion.

“It’s Eris,” said the witch. Eris took the jar and opened it. “Alright, stand the fuck still.”

Orion stood still as Eris focused on him and then jabbed her fingers towards his direction and he felt faint hooks sink into his body. She pulled these invisible hooks. “Unff! God, you are tight in there!” The hooks ripped out of his body with faint pain. “Ooo fuck! Alright. It’s in there.” She closed the jar and a red heart shape, made out of spiritual energy, pulsed inside.

“I feel weird.” said Orion.

“Yeah, that’s what people usually say on the first time.” she said. “You aren’t gonna be able to transform for a couple hours because your body is getting used to the fact there’s no longer a soul and it’s also somewhat draining. Probably should have told you that earlier.” said Eris.

He got what she was saying almost right away. He was feeling pretty hungry now, almost shambling.

“Anyway, you should start heading out because I’m not letting you stay here any longer.” Eris said. He found himself outside next to a highway road. He felt hungry, feeling really tired, and man, he didn’t want to walk anywhere…

He was about to collapse for like the third time when suddenly a white car pulled up to him.

Chapter 6: The Foodie

Orion stared at the driver, a man in a black dress shirt with a pair of yellow sunglasses over his eyes. He had black skin and frosted tip hair. A particularly interesting detail was his red mechanical hand, which replaced his left hand.

“Yo, what’s up?” he asked Orion. “You lost or what?”

“I was just in some witch’s cave and she took my soul-” said Orion before he was interrupted by the man.

“Get this kid in the car, he probably needs something to eat…” said the man. Orion just realized there were camera men in the car. He dizzily sat down in the back seats of the car as it roared back to life. He snapped to a different personality as the cameras rolled. “Hey! This is Raz Bengetti and I go around in this nice white car and check out some diners for the best. I’m in the mood for some barbeque! Mmm hmm!”

Orion looked at Raz with the oddest look he had given anyone, which was saying a lot considering he had met a lot of strange people by now. Raz took it in stride. “On this trip I’m bringing along this kid- what’s your name?” Raz asked. Orion nodded, clearly on autopilot. “Ah, he’s just hungry. And so am I! Let’s go!”

It must have been about 20 minutes before they stopped into a diner named Ribz and Thighz. Orion dazedly stepped inside behind Raz, who was making a big show out of the whole thing. “Here I am at Ribz and Thighz! That’s spelled with a Z for you folks at home!” he laughed and headed towards the back of the kitchen. Orion, still on autopilot, followed him in. A cook greeted the two, although seemed a little confused on why a kid was in here.

“Alright, what’cha making today?” asked Raz. The cook gestured over to a pile of ribs and chicken thighs. “Ah, ribs and thighs! Now I know why you call yourself that!” The cook nervously laughed. Raz motioned his hands over the pile of food. “Give me some of those beefy archuletas!” The cook had to cut him off.

“They’re… not cooked yet.” he explained. He was clearly annoyed but slightly amused.

Raz snorted. “I knew that.” Orion looked around for something, anything to eat.

“Well, you’re clearly hungry so about some of our ribs?” said the cook, grabbing a plate with a full stack of ribs drizzled with honey barbeque. A single lime wedge stuck just a little of the plate. Raz grabbed one of the ribs, breaking it off from the main structure and ripped the meat right off the bone. Orion attempted to discreetly grab one himself and eat it, accidently biting into the bone more than he meant to but he finished it off no problem. He went in for seconds.

As the cook and Raz talked, Orion distanced himself farther and farther from the action. The kitchen was longer than he expected and he soon found himself in a completely empty room where Raz and the cook’s discussion grew fainter and fainter.

“I call it the ‘Clock Meal’ because it’s served on a clock and you gotta take at least 24 hours to eat it!” said Raz faintly in the background. “You guys got a barbeque hose to hose down these big buckers?” Orion found a bunch of pots, though one was lit under a flame. What were they cooking? It was under a lid that seemed fairly easy to lift up.

“No… we don’t have a barbeque hose.” said the cook, trying to come off as tender as his chicken thighs. Orion lifted the lid off and impossibly, Eris was sitting on the top of it, unsure of the reasoning behind why she was suddenly in a kitchen of a dumpy diner. She attempted to get out of the pot and managed to get her legs out, but she was still stuck in the pot thanks to her posterior.

“Hey, what the hell?” asked Eris, attempting to get her butt out of the pot. “My ass is not that big!” She hit the floor and found it difficult to get up. “Help me out here!”

Orion glanced around and looked for something to possibly help her, coming across a set of kitchen utensils like a stir whip and an ladle. He grabbed the ladle and walked over to Eris, who was still trying to budge the pot off her butt.

“Hit it,” she said. Orion looked at her confused. “Like on the top, maybe it’ll budge it off.” Orion shrugged.

“So I was sitting there with this massive taco in my hand and this barrel of cheese, 25 gallons of it, was just sitting there so of course, you gotta dunk it…” Raz told the cook before loud clanging sounds played somewhere distant.

“What’s making all that racket?” asked the cook. The cook headed into the back to see Orion hitting a pot off a half-naked woman’s butt who was making all kinds of weird sounds. Raz seemed amused, the chef didn’t.

“Get out!” said the cook. Orion slammed the ladle on the top of the pot one last time and it fell to the floor, clanging as it did. Eris ran out of the kitchen as Raz and Orion were pushed out of the diner.


“Well that didn’t go so well!” said Raz.

“Can you like talk like a normal person, not this caricature of what a human is?” asked Orion. He folded his arms as he watched the sun fall beyond the mountains. The lights on the car came on, illuminating the path ahead. “Maybe you do it because nothing amazing happens and you have to make up for that, but it’s just obnoxious.”

Raz looked to the camera men behind him. “Shut the cameras off.” They did so, not sure what was coming.

“Kid, I’ve been everywhere in this country and I do a show where I just eat all this garbage food because I enjoy it. It’s probably not healthy and I’m gonna die in ten or so years choking on my fat folds or something. I am just a man given a stupid amount of money to eat food I crave at the time and we go to a restaurant that knows I’m coming.” Raz began.

“And your point?” asked Orion.

“Well, you said nothing amazing happens. That’s true if you’re not looking,” said Raz. “All these diner trips, they would be useless if I didn’t get anything out of it. Maybe I am a bit goofy but that generally makes people happy and I like making people happy. I like food. This is pretty much what I do for a living. I have a wife, I have three kids, and I love them all more than anything else. Everytime I go to a diner, there’s always some amazing thing going on there, whether it’s the food or the people there. I don’t know what you were doing back there but it was amazing to witness. All this amazing stuff and you’re just… missing it.” replied Raz.

Orion leaned back on the seat. Maybe Raz was right.

Chapter 7: The Route

Orion hadn’t even realized he had fallen asleep when he woke up. He was sleeping on a bench in a bus station with a blanket over him and a paper bag filled with fried food like squid, chicken, pork, and beef. He ate and then sat up straight.

How much of this trip could he do while sleeping? Was he actually getting anywhere, or was it just taking him farther and farther away from where he really needed to go?

Eris sat down next to him, grabbing a fried chicken leg and munching on it. He looked at her weirdly. “What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Not much. What I figured out was that I accidently teleported myself to you through some soul residue and relaxing in my cooking pot. Of course, I’m a moron and I don’t know where I actually stationed myself, so I figured I’d hang with you until I can figure it out. Trust me, I’m not happy about it either.” she explained as she munched on the chicken leg.

Orion glanced out tiredly out into the fog-covered street. “Where are we? Why is it so foggy?”

“I don’t know, I’m not too great at locations.” she fastened her hand onto a broom. Orion figured it was one of those brooms witches rode and didn’t want to say anything stupid at the moment, so he just stared blankly at the soggy road and concrete sidewalks.

“It’s… kind of eerie, isn’t it? Where are all the people?” he asked. He pushed back the blanket and walked about in the foggy street. The witch got up reluctantly, her head spinning indecisively before she walked behind him. He walked down, the puddles splashing in his wake. “I don’t like the feel this place is giving me… it’s giving me the creeps.”

“The creeps? Jeez, how old are you to be saying something like that?” Orion didn’t answer. The witch steadied both of her hands on the broom as the two headed down the foggy streets of a place unknown.

“Why would Raz drop me off here?” Orion wondered out loud. A faint sound that sounded a little like suction cups popping on and off was beginning to rattle into the empty soundscape. Eris clutched the broom and pointed it in the direction she was feeling it was coming from.

Orion stared at the clock that sat upon the tower to his left, mighty and strong. Yet the clock stood still, not moving a second, not a minute, not an hour. The suction cup noise was getting louder and there was an awful, near indescribable sound now accompanying it. It sounded like the guttural sounds of a corpse forced fed through a whirring, emotionless machine.

The witch accidently slammed against Orion as she walked back. Neither wanted to admit they were scared, but they were. PLIP. PLOP. PLIP. Orion’s face grew pale and began to swelter as the witch’s eyes juttered back in forth in pure fear.

“...do you remember getting here?” asked Orion. The witch gritted her teeth. She didn’t. Orion brought two of his fingers to his face and in a pincer like motion, pinched himself. The world did not roll back to reveal he was somewhere else, that everything had been a dream. It was still the horrifying empty town with something in it, something not human, not animal, not machine.

They finally saw it. A black bug like creature that oozed a bright red liquid too thick, too gelatinous to be blood. It spilled it out in drops, leaving a bath of the substance dribbling in it’s wake. It had two eyes with thirty rainbow-colored hexagonal pupils wildly looking about. PLIP. PLOP. PLIP. It spat something out, but they couldn’t tell what it was.

It seemed like it was raining, but the drops moved irregularly, like they were coming down a tilted piece of glass that made them come down slowly with bits of the water droplets floating behind it. The trailing rain hit against the cleavage of the witch, causing her face to grimace ever so slightly.

The creature looked at them. Orion looked at the creature, walking towards it as Eris tried to tell him to stay away, but the words weren’t coming out. The creature gazed up at Orion, analyzing him with it’s beady octagonal rainbow eyes. A series of numbers flashed on it’s eyes before lingering on a couple. It read as such:

Latitude:N 45° 0' 45.476"
Longitude:W 103° 47' 24.8822"

“What’s it doing?” she asked. Orion looked at the numbers and tried to find somewhere to write it down. Eris sighed as she pulled out a lined notebook, it’s cover beaten and battered for unknown reasons, from her cleavage. Orion grabbed it and opened his palm for a pen, which she grabbed out from her cleavage as well.

He clicked it twice and wrote down the coordinates the best he could. He glanced at the foggy street, watching as the creature stared at him. He was not sure what was going on this hopeless road, but it’s eyes glared at him as if it wanted him to get going.

He glanced at the numbers. He had no way to tell where he was actually going or how it worked at all, but he wasn’t gonna stay here any longer. He petted the head of the creature as it whisked off, plipping and plopping off into the fog. He took a deep breath and headed further into the foggy streets unknown. He was going to find his parents, he was done messing around.

Eris walked briskly behind him. Maybe he knew where he was going, she certainly didn’t. She clutched onto the broom as the two entered the fog, their surroundings disappearing into white. They didn’t look back. Into the light, into the white.

The yellow sun soon shone through the fog. They found themselves in a grass-less, dry dirt area. The fog was gone.

It was time to follow the route.

Chapter 8: The Nowhere

It wasn’t before long that they were feeling like they were going nowhere. The sun beat down on them, hitting like hammers of heat against their backs and heads. Eris kept somewhat cool with her brimmed hat, acting as an umbrella against the sun. Yet it was not enough to keep the torrent of heat affecting her entirely.

“Where are we now?” she grumbled. She crossed her arms. Orion squinted against the bright yellow sun and saw shade under a rock formation.

“We rest.” Orion said, ignoring her question, much to her appall. She knew that it was better to stay out of the sun than it was to remain here out where it could cast down on her. He sat against the rock, eating more of the food Raz must have given him.

“Is this even Earth anymore?” she asked, looking at the clear sky. “I’m in doubt we’re actually anywhere… this is nowhere,” Orion stared blankly forward, his mind having trouble getting back to focusing. Eris examined a pair of gold bracelets trapped into the ground. “Oh hey…” She dug them out, rubbing and scratching the dirt out. Orion nodded as he looked over to her.

Eris looked at Orion as he glanced down at the ground, aimlessly making pictures in the dirt with his fingers. She glanced in the directions of everywhere they could go, endless miles of dirt and rock formations. Wherever his parents were, they certainly were far from them.

“Who were the Rebecca and Kumail you knew?” he asked suddenly, breaking her concentration.

“Rebecca was a sweet lady who knew when to play tough. Always enjoyed when she would stop by and give me a little souvenir from her latest adventure. I…” she paused. She didn’t want to talk about her anymore. “Kumail on the other hand… he was nice but I was always envious of him. Maybe if I could see him again I could say I was sorry.”

“Envious of what?” asked the boy.

She took a deep breath and didn’t answer. Orion took her silence as the answer, deciding to remain silent. She remembered a little anecdote that pissed her off, although she didn’t remember where she heard it from. “...Men are keys…” she muttered.

“Huh?” he asked.

She sighed roughly. “A key that can open many locks is a good key… a lock that can be opened by many keys is considered a shitty, good for nothing lock.”

“Well…” said Orion, not realizing the metaphor.

“It’s a statement made by idiots who either don’t get their own sexism or are tone deaf,” she said. “It pisses me off! I can be promiscuous all I damn want!”

Orion simply nodded his head back against the rock, his eyes lulling to sleep. Eris dragged his hand out from the shade and carried off into the north. She remembered back to a place she thought she had left behind…


Rebecca curled up next to Eris, her hands wrapped across her shoulders as she nestled her knees on her bare back. Eris smiled a little bit… and Rebecca smiled back. She could see it from the corner of her eye.


Tears poured down her face. He didn’t realize why as he groggily walked behind her, tired and barely awake from this massive journey. Her face went red as she remembered those awful happy memories of Rebecca.


Eris nervously walked over to a sitting Rebecca at her laptop. She didn’t want to ask this question, she wanted to pretend she was still happy with her. That she wasn’t jealous. That she wasn’t obsessively watching the two, infuriated that they were getting closer and closer. That she wasn’t craving her love that had waned away over the past weeks.

Rebecca turned around to look at utterly nerve wracked woman, who was getting more and more uncomfortable about even talking to her. She took off her glasses as Eris clenched her fists and closed her eyes.

“...do you still love me?”

Rebecca looked at her in shock. “Of course I do…” Eris stayed silent, still clenching onto something to keep her standing. “Of course I do, I wouldn’t… hate or despise you...”

Tears poked through her tight eyelids. She couldn’t hold them back.


They poured down her face, hot and messy. She dragged her feet before falling onto the dirt. Orion nearly tumbled down into the ground with her. She dropped the broom and her hat fell of her head.

“What could I have done?” she asked herself, sobbing as she did. “What did I ever do wrong to her?” She tried to wipe them away and get back to whatever they were doing in the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere, but her hands couldn’t reach her face.

Her heart felt heavy and she felt like she was falling like she did back then. It was such a long time ago and she didn’t understand why it was coming back. Wasn’t she happy before this? She attempted to pick up her belongings but tripped upon standing up.

“Can’t I do ANYTHING right?” she said, angrily throwing her broom onto the ground. Orion watched the scene unfold before him, not sure what to do. Stay away? Comfort her? Leave her? Perhaps not the third option…


Rebecca leaped off the computer seat and helped her sit on the bed, rubbing her back as she spilled out tears.


He knew he had to do something. He squatted down next to her and like his mother did with him in the situations he would upset in, hugged and soothed her with “Shush… shush...”

It was incredibly comforting. Her eyes dried in five minutes and she was shaking but not on the verge of collapse. The boy noticed a strange thing over a large formation, a small corner from the top…

He walked over the formation in the east.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“I think I found where we need to go…” he said, walking past the rock structure. She rushed over to see a giant, multicolored bubble floating inside of a half-circle rock structure.

“What makes this the place we need to go?” she asked.

“It’s somewhere in this nowhere.” he said as he stepped forward. She couldn’t fault that kind of logic, she supposed.

Chapter 9: The Bubble

They stepped inside. Eris recollected herself as she put on her hat and gripped her broom. She had a question, although she wasn’t sure if it was the time. They stood on a flowing road of colors, mixing and messing with each other.

Orion looked up to see the underside of a floating house. He wasn’t sure if he was imagining that or not. He shook his head off from it and headed forwards. Eris felt uneasy about the place. Something about it didn’t seem right.

“Hey… have you tried your shape-shifting powers at all yet?” she asked. Orion realized that he hadn’t. He sold his soul for the powers, he might as well try… he focused on trying to become a tiger based off what he remembered from them but all it did was slightly distort his hand.

“How does this work again?” he asked. She shrugged. She left her spell book at her house, and they were probably further away from that than where Orion’s parents were. She looked forward onto the rainbow blended path, bubbles flying across the mostly empty landscape. Dotted with all sizes of bubbles, some as big as a house, some as small as an ant.

A bubble passed by Orion’s eyes, depicting a landscape made of cubes and purple crashing waves. A man with a marble green triangle head stared uneasily with his sole eye. As soon as he came to comprehend it, it floated away from him.

Eris was still uneasy. She dried away her tears and watched as the sky shifted into a mishmash of pastel colored lines that headed towards a thin black pyramid pulsating in the sky, staring blankly with it’s one blue eye.

Orion focused on trying to activate his shapeshifting powers. He sold his soul for it and he knew that Eris hadn’t had a clue where it was, so getting it back wasn’t an option right now. He tried hard to morph his hand, just his hand, into a tiger’s paw. No dice. Maybe she jipped him.

Another bubble passed by his eyes, depicting a lapis blue collection of cubes amassing into one spot in a black space. Two cubical snakes coiled around this mass and in the center was a collection of purple cubes going into each other, generating yellow light.

The road seemed to stretch on for infinity. Eris stared at several bubbles that passed her sight, not finding anything interesting. She stared ahead, some of the bubbles getting bigger or smaller as she watched them for stretches of time.

“...what were you crying about?” asked Orion. “Sorry for the late question but… you just got around to asking about whether I had shapeshifting powers yet.”

She choked. Supposing this was her Rebecca’s kid… could he handle that information? Could she even tell him? These questions lingered a god awful amount of time in her head. He was patient enough, but she could tell he was getting to the point where he was gonna ask again.

“Nothing,” she replied simply. “I’m fine. I’m… fine. I’ve never been better. Ha… who needs her...”

He simply nodded. Eris looked around staring into the vastness inside the bubble. The road had no end, no exit… they might be stuck here. She was feeling panicked again. Trapped for the third time…

Orion glanced over the bubbles as he walked forward. One caught his eye, depicting a scene where a man with a samurai sword swung on his back stood up from his throne. He saw Rebecca and Kumail, prisoners held by men in animal masks.

He popped the bubble. The bubble left a slowly expanding rift in the aftermath. Eris glanced over and ran by his side. “What did you do?”

“I found them.” he stated, taking a step inside.

Chapter 10: The Tower

Dark storm clouds surrounded the tower, with white crystal rock making up the cliff it stood on. The tower itself was a tall structure made of thin material, chitin, but didn’t seem like it could randomly break at any moment.

Three windows stood at the top of the tower, below a black crown-like structure. This black crown-like structure had several gaps to see out of while it’s spike tops stretched much of it’s length. At the base of the crown was an grey stone ouroboros, eating its own tail. This seemed to be decorative and not actually holding the structure to the top of the tower.

The tower itself seemed practically made of giant moth wings, clustered together in a way that was messily ornate. A Moth Tower, if you will. Orion and Eris cautiously walked towards the tower as thunder sounded in the distance.

“Well… what is this place?” asked Eris. She paused as she looked at the tower while Orion pressed forward. He knew, he had no time for small talk. Something cackled in the distance and while Eris drew even more caution, Orion pressed forward.

“Orion…” she warned in a low tone. Orion looked back but it was too late. Something in red robes descended down to the ground, their green hands generating a powerful energy in between their fingers. Although the red-robed figure was rather lanky and surprisingly curvy, their green skin was leathery and dry. The figure dropped the hood over their head to reveal a bald green head with a large, horrible grin in the center of their face.

Orion was struck with a bright red zap of energy and fell to the ground. He attempted to pick himself up but was zapped again. Eris looked behind her. She could still run, she could still try and find her way home. She could leave this all behind and live the life she was living before, which wasn’t bad. She could act out her desires with nobody around to give a shit.

That’s not what she ended up doing.

“Get the hell off him, you fucker!” Eris kicked the red robed, green skinned woman, causing her to lose her focus. Orion coughed as he limply tried to stand up. Eris kicked the woman’s mostly featureless head in, but this moment of victory didn’t last long. Eris soon found her foot trapped in time with cyan energy.

“Orion! Help!” she called out. Orion limply got up, woozy from the other woman’s attacks. “Who the hell are you...?”

“Biria…” said the woman, grinning with a sick sense of satisfaction. She knew Eris couldn’t do shit. “The warlock.” Eris gritted her teeth. She didn’t remember any spells to help her out here and she was desperately trying to do so. She quickly looked over to Orion, who wasn’t looking too hot at the moment. She was trapped once again. She was beginning to feel uneasy, just like how she felt in the misty town, the middle of nowhere, the bubble…

Orion had gotten her out of those situations but he was completely out of the question right now. Warlock Biria formed a red energy knife in her hands, passing it through some smooth but very complicated maneuvers with her fingers. Eris had something at the moment that Biria didn’t, though. Free hands.

She unhooked the straps of her bikini top, causing it to topple to the ground. Biria was so thrown off it ruined her concentration on both the knife and Eris’ leg. Time resumed and she kicked her square in the stomach, the built up energy launching her inside the tower. Eris quickly grabbed her top and strapped it back on, hoping Orion didn’t see it. Actually... she didn’t give a shit. She was more worried what would happen if Orion described this scene to Rebecca.

He was still woozy though, so it didn’t seem like he would have caught that. She sighed in relief. Alright, where to now? She didn’t exactly want to head into the tower knowing the warlock was in there and likely pissed.

Orion missed like all of that. He was still trying to focus back into reality, if this is what this was anyway. He took a second to get his wind back and attempted to morph into a tiger again. This time it actually worked. He wasn’t sure how he got into the form though and he waltzed around aimlessly, not sure how things worked in his tired and weak state.

Eris was pretty impressed that he was finally shapeshifting. She wasn’t impressed that he was doing jackshit with though. He was hungry but she didn’t have any food with her and there certainly wasn’t any spells she knew to summon any. So she shrugged for a moment and sat down.

It was nice for a second because she was feeling protected for the most part by the tiger circling her, the orange stripes a good warning for any goons wanting to fuck with them. It didn’t last long though, because they were both hit with sleeping darts.

Chapter 11: The Tiger

Orion woke up in a colorless room. His mother, with her usual thick-framed glasses, poured her focus into a hardback book, the dust cover long-gone into the ether of the unknown. Orion glanced in the room, noticing that it was rather featureless and empty. He didn’t feel like a tiger anymore, although he was just walking around as one just a couple moments ago…

His mother looked at him, surprised he was here. She watched as he walked up to her, still glancing at this mixture of unfamiliarity and familiarity. His mother set the book down in her lap.

“Where am I?” he asked.

She glanced at the clock, with the numbers replaced by foggy words, some of which he could make like “dead” and “asleep” but some of them were just too foggy to make out. She looked back at him. “Asleep.”

“Well, how do I wake up?” he asked. He anxiously looked around in the bare room, feeling trapped and uncomfortable. His mother grabbed him and set him down in her lap. “HELP!”

“Shush, shush.” she soothed. She opened the book and words floated out hazily. He looked to his mom, a curious set of questions he wanted to ask popping into his mind.

“Did you know a witch?” he asked simply.

His mom closed the book and thought back. “Yes...” she paused as she answered. “She was a lovely lady but… sometimes things end up in unexpected ways. I need to find her again, set things right…”

He paused, taking in the room once again. Did he know that before? Did he make that up? Or was it really his mother in this room right now? He glanced at the clock. Still asleep, but the clock hands were moving a little bit. He moved onto another question. “Do you know how to shapeshift?”

“Shapeshifting... “ she said, pausing. She nodded. “...well, you don’t need to be thinking of the animal you want to shapeshift into. You see, you need to embody the spirit of the animal you want to be… a owl is curious and nosy, a lion is proud and boastful, an anteater is willing to do jobs nobody else wants…”

Orion understood now. He had been trying to shapeshift into a tiger but didn’t feel like he was brave for finding his way out of places, feeling like he had only stumbled into the exit as opposed to doing what he had to do to get out. Within the bubble, he actually did understand the solution and didn’t feel like he had stumbled onto the exit.

The only issue was getting out of the room. The clock’s hands had moved ever so slightly to fuzzy words that seemed to have some clarity to them now. He needed to ask more questions.

Some odd question poked inside of his mind, worming weirdly inside. He didn’t understand it, but he needed to ask it. “What is here now?”


Eris woke up in her cave, a lot cleaner than she remembered it being. She glanced over to her left and right, noticing a lack of color. Her world was in black and white now. She worried that she was color blind before noticing the green sweater of Rebecca.

Rebecca.

She looked over to Rebecca, wondering why she crawled back here. She was married, she had a kid now… well she wasn’t entirely sure if they were talking about the same Rebecca, but it seemed like that. Rebecca, Rebecca, Rebecca… she hated that she was still in love with her. She walked over to her.

“Rebecca, what are you doing here?” she asked. Rebecca looked up to her and smiled. Eris frowned a little. She didn’t want to deal with this, not again. “Rebecca!”

“I’m here for you.” she said.

That’s not what she was wanting to hear, although a small part of her was hoping she would say that.

“Rebecca… you have a family. A husband, a son... “ she looked downwards. “You don’t get to come here and leave all that behind. I’m not going to let you do that… as much as I want you to.” She sighed heavily, her bruised heart letting out a hollow release.

Rebecca placed a hand on her bare shoulder. “You’re having a hard time letting go of me, aren’t you?” Eris felt herself about to cry again but she remained adamant not to. She was angry at her for leaving her so suddenly, scared that she wasn’t gonna get out of whatever mess she tangled herself up in this time, but most of all, just sad. Deeply sad that these memories were coming back in a way she never wanted them to.

“I am!” she shouted, not caring who heard it. “Why did you leave me like that? With him? You never told me, you never told me-ee…” she broke down, her knees getting weak. “I’m not weak… I’m hurt. I’ve been hurting for a long, long time. This isn’t real, this isn’t the real Rebecca… I know this because I was just sitting down with a tiger, your son, circling around me with the wind out of his stomach.”

“So if I’m not real and you’re aware of this, why aren’t you waking up?” asked Rebecca, her words metaphorically dicing through the air.

“I don’t know. I don’t know shit. I don’t know any fucking spells despite spending about ten years alone in a goddamn cave doing nothing but summon shit to fuck because I’m bored and horny- I summoned crap food to eat and I don't remember any of it. Not a single runic letter of those stupid fucking spells.” divulged Eris.

Rebecca stayed calm.

“Fucking care! If you’re my dream Rebecca, you could give a shit like you did about ten years ago!” she shouted. “Would it cost you anything?”


“Get the spellbook.” Rebecca responded calmly. Eris dropped her hands and hesitated for a moment before walking over to the bookshelf, grabbing the grimy and huge spell book.

“I don’t know what you want with it.” Eris said as she plopped it down on Rebecca’s lap. Rebecca kindly grabbed it and gave it back to her.

“Shit’s blurry as fuck. Why the hell do you want me to look through this anyway?” asked Eris.

“I think if you get a better view, you might be able to get yourself out of this predicament.” calmly stated Rebecca. She took off her glasses and handed them to Eris, who snatched it out of her hands and placed them over her eyes.

She could see the runic letters now. She looked at Rebecca in surprise and read through the book, looking for spells to remember in her head. She realized what she had to do. Study the fuck up for this final exam.


Orion drifted onto a small wooden boat like he had seemingly so long ago, on a familiar river. He didn’t remember how he got here. He was talking to his mother and realized the secret behind shapeshifting and now he was in a place he remembered. A misty river with a house floating on the water.

He wondered if he would see the girl again. Or anyone for that matter. As he approached the house, he sat up in the boat, watching the river stream slower than it normally would, whiter than it normally was. The house was devoid of color, just like the room.

He got out of the boat and got on the house’s extensive porch, held up by several planks that had no color. He walked around the house, finding the icebox that held in the fish, now without it’s brilliant oak colors.

No Hachi. He found the old man on the back of the house, staring out into the flat water as colorful fish swam by. He looked to his left and right, for reasons he didn’t even understand, and sat down next to him. The old man noticed.

“Well, you’re back, huh,” said the old man. Orion said nothing. The old man snapped his lips and then looked out at the river again. “Orion, right?”

“Yeah.” responded Orion.

“Hachi hasn’t stopped talking about you.” he remarked, an amused tone inflicted in his voice.

“What’s… what’s she been saying about me?” asked Orion.

“She thought you died. I told her it wasn’t the case, but it took her on a search to verify that, I suppose.” he said.

“A search?” asked Orion.

“Didn’t she meet you in that empty, misty town?” asked the old man.

“That bug… was that her?” asked Orion. He thought back to the town, the horrifying noises it made… and it’s strange helpfulness.

“We all take on different forms at one point or another.” he said.

“Where is she now?” asked Orion.

“Picking berries. But you can’t stay here forever and I have a different task for you anyway.” he said.

“What is it?” asked Orion.

“Mmm… you’re not gonna like it. But you’re gonna do it anyway. You remind me of another boy that washed up here a long time ago, his name was Scorpio, after the stars. He helped me out, he admired me… of course that all came crashing down on my face. I taught him things he didn’t need to know and he sought darkness. He sought the form of the moth,” uttered the old man. “The moth… it seeks power and once it finds it, it does not stop until it’s demise.”

“His name was Scorpio and he sought the form of a moth?” asked Orion.

“Your name is Orion and you sought the form of a tiger. Sometimes names are just names.” he said. He poked Orion, causing him to fall into the river, a soothing, calming feeling of numbness coming over him as he awoke.

He was a tiger in a cage. Suspended over a pit hundreds of feet down with seemingly no end, the chains had the cages dangling over precariously.

He was curious and nosy. He flew out of the bars of the cage as an owl. He saw several other cages with other prisoners, trapped in sleep. Eris languished in a tight position, her knees drawn close to her chest. Orion knew she would be okay.

A small hole in the wall caught his eye.

Chapter 12: The Stone

Orion peered into the hole. Too small to make his way in, but it would work if he wanted to see what was inside.

The man he saw in the bubble, with the katana on his back, paced around as his parents sat tied up in two chairs. Kumail was awake and constantly arguing with the man, both seemingly unaware Rebecca was asleep. In the center of the room and only a few feet away from the man and his parents, was a red stone.

“We are not telling you jackshit about that stone.” shot Kumail from the chair. The man didn’t seem like he was pleased too much about the answer, but he kept smiling, knowing that at some point they were going to break.

“Everything has a breaking point. Steel, structural ASTM A36 steel, has a breaking point of 400-550 MPa. Human skin… 20 MPa. Human mind… we’ll find out.” said the man. He grabbed the katana and threw it to the floor, much to the confusion of Kumail and Orion. “We don’t need a sword to threaten you, that’s stupid. You know we wouldn’t dare kill someone that knows how to operate the stone.”

“You’re never going to find out. Who the hell did you get to threaten us?” asked Kumail. The man snapped his fingers and a man in a lion mask walked up to him.

“Uh… that tiger’s gone. I don’t even know how… I had my focus away for one second and…” divulged the lion mask man. The man grew angry, picking up the sword and slamming it into the center of the man with the lion mask’s chest. Blood splattered on to the blade and dripped onto the floor in a crimson puddle.

“WHERE IS IT?” he screamed. “WHERE IS THE TIGER?” He slammed two sets of golden armor onto the floor, the pieces scrambled all about the floor. The man in the lion mask sputtered his dying words.

“G-gone or something…” replied the dying man.

“What can you even do with the stone?” asked Kumail, obviously not afraid of the man. He had been through this several times, he knew things would be fine. He actually did know the stone’s potential, but it really wasn’t that hard to operate so he wasn’t sure why the man was asking him.

“Create an empire out of gold. Money is power… gold is money. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out for you, adventure club senior, now should it?” said the man. Kumail rolled his eyes.

“What’s your name, you little toad?” asked Kumail.

“My name is Scorpio and I am not a little toad!” furiously shot back Scorpio. Scorpio… that was the person that old guy was talking about. “I am the moth!”

Orion flew off. He knew who Scorpio was now, all he had to do was find a way inside…? Something cackled in the distance and he turned around to see what it was.

He was zapped with red energy. It was the Warlock, and this time he didn’t have Eris around with him. Biria zapped him again, this time with cyan energy, grabbing the owl in her wet sandpaper hands.

He tried to squirm his way out of it, but her magical grip was too strong.

Chapter 13: The Staircase

The warlock’s room was what you’d typically expect: grey brick walls with aged mortar smudged in between them, alchemical tables with red and green stains on the phoenixwood, and the bronze rods hanging from the ceiling, dripping melted silver onto a plate of brass.

She placed him inside of a winding and twisting cage that was a thin white torn color, wavering like a ghost. A soul cage for the soulless, it seemed. Orion attempt to transform, but he oddly couldn’t. The warlock grinned with her teeth, pulling out a bronze knife with glowing blue constellations on it.

“You won’t be a problem much longer, shapeshifter…” she hissed as she stabbed through the gaps of the ectoplasmic cage. Orion sideswept the jabs in what little space he had. The warlock hissed but slowly gave up on the endeavor as she set down the knife. “...fine.” She picked up the cage and hung it to a support stand.

Trapped and with no way out. The soul cage kept his form as an owl, and the ectoplasmic grid of the cage was dense enough to prevent him from escaping. It twisted and formed, taunting him. The cage was freer than he was, constantly shifting its ebbs and flows of spiritual energy.

The warlock left the room. He wondered where she was heading off to.


Eris awoke, everything that she had studied fairly fresh and soaked inside of her mind. It could be all bullshit for all she knew, but she had to give it a shot. She twisted her arms and popped out her two pointer fingers on each hand, then pulled back both of her thumbs. She swung her arms in front of her, forming a x-shaped, floating range of ballistic bullets. The tip of each bullet radiated with an aqua colored aura. She lifted up her left hand and fired off, the top section of her cage being cut utterly in half as the the bottom section of her suspended cage fell to the abyss below.

She knew that it was probably not the best idea to use the bullet spell, now that she was falling for an unknown distance. She crossed her hands over her chest and quickly shot them forward, a pair of daisy yellow wings emerging from her back. She floated down to the ground slowly, as she if she were a piece of paper.

So it wasn’t bullshit. She laughed quickly, relieved that she finally didn’t feel like a goddamn failure. She went quiet as she watched the warlock exit her den. The dimmed, flickering lights were the only thing that lit the bottom. The warlock stared at her and the cage remains.

“Just you and me… just you and me…” she said, wearily. She beckoned the warlock, daring her to come closer if she dared. The warlock took her dare on, flinging red energy projectiles as she dashed towards her. Eris formed a X over her chest, a flaming blue shield reflecting the energy back.

“You’ve learned a lot, haven’t you?” groaned the warlock as she picked herself up. She flashed her teeth as suddenly the flaming shield exploded into psionic energy. Eris fell to the floor, groaning as her pain receptors screamed.

She was done with pain though. The adrenaline coursed through her veins, like a river dam being destroyed. She materialized a guitar between her hands, a green-ish blue color, and charged at the warlock. The warlock attempted to teleport but Eris had anticipated her moving out of the way and threw the guitar to the left, hitting her square in the face.

“What the fu-?” said the warlock, not able to get another word out before she was hit again by the guitar, square in the face. Eris’ blond bangs hung grimly in front of her face as she slammed the guitar over and over into her face. The warlock’s arms hung loosely against the ground, the force of the guitar causing them to jump and down. She put down the guitar and felt the warlock’s pulse. Not dead, just not getting up anytime soon.

Good enough. She came into the room to find a owl in a cage.

“That you?” she asked. The owl nodded his head. She opened the cage and saw the owl transform into Orion.

“Sorry it took me so long, was studying,” she said. “But heh… I’m good now.”

Orion simply nodded. “We need to get up the stairs.”

“Oh shit, yeah, gotcha,” she said, looking up the stairs. “Yeah, we need to do that. Save your parents.”

Orion transformed into a tiger, pouncing up the stairs. Eris summoned her broom and flew upwards. Knights in red armor burst through the flimsy walls, somehow not breaking down the tower itself. By themselves, they weren’t a huge deal and Orion could deal with them easily with a couple quick tiger jabs.

As they went up further, it became clearer there were a lot of them and with such large numbers, it was harder to take them out. Eris attempted to use a spell or two, but watched as it merely bounced off their scarlet armor.

The door was in sight now. They were surrounded by these red knights. It became apparent that Orion hadn’t actually taken them out at all, they were just falling off the staircase and climbing back up.

Eris had a idea. Pretty awful in hindsight, but at the time, her horny and fucked up mind thought it was a decent solution. She slammed the broom onto the floor, the head of the broom vertical to the floor. The knights stopped as she wrapped her legs around it.

“Alright Orion, I’ve got their attention, you go into the door. I’ll hold them off.” Eris stated. Orion nodded as he transformed into a owl, entering through the hole he had used before. He must have figured Eris was gonna do something explosive or something, because he got out of their as quickly as he could.

Eris licked her lips as she danced around the pole, adjusting her straps to be as sensual as possible. The knights stared ahead, some cheering. Eris shrugged mentally.

Chapter 14: The Duel

Orion entered the room, sprouting through it as an owl. Unlike when he peeked through the room earlier, both of his parents were awake and baffled to see an white barn owl fly out from a crack in the wall. Scorpio turned his attention to Orion, baffled but slowly turning intensely violent.

“How did that get in here?” he screamed at his two guards, standing by the doors. Kumail sighed.

“It’s just a bird, man…” Kumail said, the enraged Scorpio looking at him like he was ready to murder him, right here, right now. Orion realized it was probably not the smartest idea to shape-shift right now. The guards, in their dog and horse masks, headed towards Orion who simply fluttered before the could slash down with their axes. Suddenly he was plucked out from the air by Scorpio’s huge hands.

“You think you can just barge in here, don’t you?” asked Scorpio. He opened his mouth wide, intending to bite Orion’s head off. Orion need to be sneaky, slimy, and stealthily robust to get out, so he became a snake and bit at Scorpio’s mouth. Scorpio hollered back in pain as Orion dropped to the floor.

“Huh, I guess I was wrong.” said Kumail as he stared at the former-owl, now-snake. Scorpio pulled out a katana blade, intending to chop up Orion’s slithery form up. Forming into a formidable, clear-minded spider with a goal in mind, Orion scuttered up against the wall. Scorpio attempted to corner it, only to have the katana trapped within thick layers of webbing. Orion dropped to the floor as Scorpio attempted to pull out from the webbing, crawling between his legs.

There was only one transformation left up his sleeves. Something who could be adventurous, problem-solving with a quick mind like a steel trap, something who never gave into whatever they went up against. Orion stood as a normal boy, much to his parents’ surprise.

“Orion?” asked Rebecca.

Orion nodded. Scorpio pulled the katana blade out from the webbing and charged at the boy, the two parents in a intense pulling of emotions as they saw Orion quickly transform into a hawk to dodge the strike, nearly sending out Scorpio from the building as his blade clashed into the fragile walls. As he pulled out his sword from the wall, Orion grabbed the Philosopher's Stone. He wasn’t sure how this worked, but he attempted to turn it to activate it. Scorpio charged at him, knocking the hawk’s grip out from the stone.

“You’re not getting your hands on it.” he said, attempting to twist it to activate it. Nothing happened. He threw the stone onto the ground and readied his sword over the hawk, who was attempting to get up. Rebecca fell to the floor, attempting to leverage herself towards the sword. Scorpio turned around, feeling like Rebecca would be a far better victim. As he poised the sword over her, something slammed into his back. The horn of a protective rhino.

Scorpio fell from the tower and onto the ground. Orion transformed into a helpful honey badger and cut through his mom’s ropes. She stood up, adjusting her glasses and dusting herself off. “Don’t forget me!” called out his father. Orion scampered over, cutting the rope tightened around his knuckles. He got up from the chair and looked down the Tower. Scorpio was seemingly gone.

“Well, where have you been?” asked Kumail as he patted Orion’s head. Orion didn’t even really know where to begin, to be honest.

Suddenly, Scorpio burst through the doors, holding the katana to Eris’ neck. She whimpered as she looked at the three, begging that this mad-man wasn’t gonna kill her. Her bra barely covered her breasts, her nipples just barely visible. Rebecca and Orion got into fighting positions.

“Let. Her. Go.” slowly said Rebecca. She held out the Philosopher's Stone. Scorpio laughed harder as he pulled the katana closer to Eris’ neck.

Eris had to think quickly. She wasn’t sure what Rebecca could do with the stone, but the fact she wasn’t doing whatever she could right now meant she was gonna take a risky move and was evaluating if it was worth it. She dropped the broom just outside the room, if she was fast enough…

Eris held her hand out towards Scorpio’s crotch, the broom speeding right into him and through his lower regions. He dropped Eris onto the ground as she clutched her broom. Rebecca activated the Philosopher's Stone, Scorpio screaming in agony as he was turned into gold. Frozen in a suffering pose, Rebecca, Kumail, Orion, and Eris stared at Scorpio’s golden body, forever frozen in pain.

“You guys want to go get some pizza or something?” asked Kumail, instantly lifting the air from the traumatic situation. The other three nodded.

Chapter 15: The End

After the journey back to Polybius and getting some pizza from there, the four returned to Orion and family’s place. Eris admired how nice and small their house was, a single story house that was clean of any garbage on the floor. She wore a jacket that Kumail let her wear to prevent any weird public incidents, as much as she insisted on just wearing what she had on. She was caught up on Rebecca’s life and Rebecca was caught up on Eris’ own sad one.

“Well… I honestly don’t remember where I live to be frank with you… you probably remember though,” said Eris, looking at Rebecca. Rebecca glanced nervously at Eris. “Look, it’s fine… I understand that you’re with him,” she said, looking at Kumail. “No reason for me to be here now that the adventure’s done and over with.”

“Well… Eris, me and Kumail were talking and honestly… maybe we could have a little Eris in our daily lives, if you get what I’m talking about. Maybe… do you want live here?” asked Rebecca. “As long as you respect our personal spaces and vice versa…”

Eris was speechless. “You want… me to live in your house? Why?”

“Well, we’re all good friends and it sounds like you’re going down a bit of a path of self-destruction…” Rebecca said, trying to play down the idea so it would seem easier for Eris. “Maybe we could help you resort your life without really changing who you are under all the flaws.”

“Where would I even sleep…?” she said, glancing around.

“Well you can take the couch or…” Rebecca said, pondering around. “...you could probably also sleep in Orion’s room, he should probably get familiar with that kind of idea before he heads off to college or something…”

“You’re thinking about college this early?” asked Eris. Rebecca shrugged. “You always were a big long term planner, seems like that hasn’t changed.”

“Anyway, is it a yes?” asked Rebecca.

Eris smirked as she shook Rebecca’s hand. “You know it is.”


Orion sat in his room, looking at his hand morph into various things. Suddenly, his bed shot a couple feet in the air, landing on higher ground. He look down to see Eris lay back on the lower bunk.

“Hey, what gives?” asked Orion.

“I gave you the top bunk, what else do you want?” she asked.

“...are you living here now?” asked Orion.

“Yeah, your mom pretty much asked me to, something about my self-destructive behavior…” Eris said, a smile on her face. Orion wasn’t exactly ecstatic about the idea but at the same time, unconcerned with it. Just another change in his life.

Change doesn’t concern a shapeshifter.

THE END

Trivia

  • Eris was originally named Larissa.

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