Legends of Love and Luck – Chapter Five

A mysterious ship appeared on the water, approaching the docks of Green Capital. It was of a curious hexagonal design, and sailed under a flag unknown to any of the spotters at the port authority.

Legends of Love and Luck is a collaborative epic novel composed by Balckwell and Hoober, for publication on the Soup Web Zone. It is inspired by Classical Chinese Novels such as Journey to the WestRomance of the Three Kingdoms, and Bandits of the Water-Margin. Odd-numbered chapters will be composed by Balckwell, and even-numbered chapters by Hoober. We hope you enjoy the result.

Captain Shufflepuck Sails Into Town / Saint Stunk Discovers a Hullabaloo

A mysterious ship appeared on the water, approaching the docks of Green Capital. It was of a curious hexagonal design, and sailed under a flag unknown to any of the spotters at the port authority. A rowboat was sent out to reconnoitre with it in order to discover its origin as well as its purpose. In the rowboat was River Thrushing and his sister, Steam Wasping. They attached their boat to the mysterious ship. A ladder was thrown down, and they climbed aboard.

A man was awaiting them at the top, arms akimbo. This was Captain Shufflepuck. He was a burly man with perpetually sunburned pale skin. He wore a purple cap atop his head, an eyepatch over his left eye, and a great, grey, rugged coat. Beneath his misshapen moustache was a wide mouth bent into a cruel grin. River Thrushing and Steam Wasping approached him cautiously.

“My friends!” Captain Shufflepuck yelled in a booming voice, his arms spread out wide, “Welcome aboard! This is my ship, the Heophisotpopehles!”

“A fine ship, this Heophisotpopehles,” River Thrushing said, gazing around at the piles of multicoloured cloth strewn around the deck. “And where is it you are sailing from, Captain…”

“Shufflepuck! I have sailed all around the Iron Sea, my friends. Where I am from, even I can not say. Perhaps I was born of the sea! Alas, it does oft treat me as a mother may. One day scolding me, the next day providing a comforting embrace. Ah, the sea, it is my home, my mistress, my mother, my father, ah…” His words drifted away as he stared out into the great ocean.

“Just write the Isle of Ayle,” River Thrushing whispered to Steam Wasping, whose pen was wavering over the empty space next to “Origin” on a large form. “Well, Captain,” he said in a louder voice towards Shufflepuck, “what brings you to the Green Capital? Unfortunately, we can not let you dock without certain permissions, which in order to be granted require certain information…”

“My friend! I have been invited here! Were you not informed?”

“It seems not.” River Thrushing glanced at his sister, and then back at Shufflepuck. “Who was it that invited you?”

“Ah… It was a man wearing one glove too large for him, and one too small. He slouched before me, and told me, in a faint whisper, that my presence was required in the Green Capital. Of course, this was a few years ago now! I have been a little busy, ha ha!” Captain Shufflepuck’s laughter was so vigorous that it pushed him backwards a few feet.

“That sounds like Mr. Chimney…” Steam Wasping whispered.

“It does.” said River Thrushing. “And where did you meet this man?”

“It was in a dream, my friend! I remember it well. I was sailing into a land full of beautiful mermaids. They were calling to me from their rocks, and I remember that I was halfway through removing my breeches, when the man appeared before me. ‘Ah,’ I said to him, ‘We have not met before! Are you here to join in the festivities?’ He shook his head, and that was when he whispered his invitation. Of course, the dream fell apart from there, and try as I might, I have not been able to navigate my mind palace back to that delightful dream again since! Ah, but once I do my friends, once I do…”

River Thrushing cut him off. “Well, Captain, I would confirm this information with Mr. Chimney himself, but unfortunately he is out of town right now.”

“Curse my luck!” Captain Shufflepuck guffawed. “It is just like me to show up at in the right place at the wrong time! Alas, I will park my ship wherever is convenient and wait. My crew will appreciate the shore leave!” He looked around the ship, excited. The deck was entirely devoid of any crew. “And how long will I be waiting for our esteemed friend?”

“It will be within a week’s time,” River Thrushing replied. Steam Wasping opened her mouth to speak, but he nudged her with his elbow. “For the time being, you may park your ship in the dock, but unfortunately, none of your crew members will be able to disembark until we receive the proper authorization.”

“Hmm… the lads will not be happy,” said Shufflepuck, shaking his head, “but it is unavoidable. We have been at sea for many months now; one more week is but a short time to wait.”

“I am glad you understand,” said River Thrushing. “We will be off now. A pilot will be here shortly to direct your ship to a suitable docking location.” With that, River Thrushing and Steam Wasping descended the ladder and rowed back to shore.

“A queer fellow,” River Thrushing said, once they were out of earshot.

“It is not beyond Mr. Chimney’s power to employ dream summons,” said Steam Wasping. “But I wonder why he would summon such a man as that. It seems that whatever task he invited him to do would be irrelevant by now, though…”

“Perhaps he knew it would take him this long,” River Thrushing wondered aloud. “It could be that Mr. Chimney meant for him to arrive at exactly this time.”

“Do you really think so? Curious…”

“I’m just thinking out loud,” said River Thrushing. “With the recent troubles and Mr. Chimney’s disappearance, I’ve been having to think much more than usual. Perhaps I’m growing paranoid.”

“Perhaps…”

They reached the shore in silence.

    *       *       *

As Saint Stunk forded the ancient dying river of Oxun, she could percieve the disctinct smells of village life. She altered her course towards the smells, hoping to find some hospitality on this long, lonely trip. As she approached a small forest village, Boddhisatva Green Onion descended from the sky on a cloud.

“Take care, Saint Stunk!” she cried. “There is disaster in this village. I fear that a demon has hidden itself among the villagers, and is sowing great disharmony. The famous Wa Hu school of martial arts has split asunder, and its disciples are on the verge of a battle that could destroy the entire village.”

Saint Stunk nodded. “Thank you Green Onion for your gracious warning. I will be careful.”

The village was shrouded in a dense forest. Before Saint Stunk entered, she sat patiently on a stump nearby and attuned her hyper-sensitive ears to the sounds. She heard a dastardly sort of music emanating from the East, and a menacing sort of music emanating from the West. These were the chants of the newly rivalling Wa and Hu schools. The two sets of music were converging in the town square.

Saint Stunk knew of the Wa Hu school. It had been founded by Mah Ryo in ancient times. The discipline was based around impeccably timed jumps. The masters of the practice employed a flurry of dives, leaps, and flips in order to attain a favourable position against their adversaries.

When the music halted, Saint Stunk sat up and entered the village. The two factions were lined up in the village square, arranged in two long lines facing each other. The Wa clan was led by Jin Ryo, the latest in the long Ryo line. The Hu clan was led by Frivolous Jenga, who stood eight-feet tall and three inches. Jin Ryo was famous for his speed, his jumps launching him many feet into the air with no perceptible wind-up or warning. Frivolous Jenga used his long legs for powerful jumps that sent him soaring to the tops of the highest trees, from which he performed death-defying diving attacks that could crush boulders.

When Saint Stunk arrived, the two were exchanging bitter words. Saint Stunk leaned against the railing of a balcony where two older men watched the stand-off. “Not a great time to arrive in town,” one of them said.

“Seems like good timing to me,” Saint Stunk replied. She reached into her tunic and brought out a blank piece of paper. On the piece of paper, she wrote an elaborate character that neither man recognized.

Calmly, she approached Jin Ryo and Ferocious Jenga. They ceased their quibbling, and looked at her in stunned silence. She placed herself equidistant between the two combatants. Placing the paper on the ground, she whispered a single word. The paper was then picked up by a gust of wind, and sailed towards the forest. It was caught in mid-air by a phoenix, which had appeared seemingly out of nowhere. The phoenix circled the rivalling clans several times as every member stared up in awe. Then, it landed on Saint Stunk’s shoulder.

Ferocious Jenga was the first to speak. “What brings you here, Saint Stunk? This dispute is a private affair of the Wa Hu school.”

“I am not here to get in the way of any dispute,” Saint Stunk replied. “I am simply passing through on my way to the Green Capital.”

“In that case, you will find a graceful welcome at the local inn,” said Ferocious Jenga. “It is but a little ways up the street.”

“Thank you.” Saint Stunk began to walk away, phoenix still on her shoulder.

“Wait!” The squeaky voice belonged to Jin Ryo. “That phoenix… what is its significance?”

“Oh, this old thing?” Saint Stunk stroked the phoenix’s head, causing it to let out a small squawk. “Just a companion of mine.” She turned her back on the fight, and continued walking away.

Jin Ryo and Ferocious Jenga looked at each other. All of a sudden, a terrifying scream was unleashed from someone in the town square. The skin on said person’s face began to burn, dripping off their face and landing in puddles on the floor, revealing a grotesque demonic countenance underneath. The burned demon fell on their knees, writhing in pain, while their body bulged and squished, transmogrifying into a bestial shape.

But who was it? Read on to find out.

The Five Delicacies on Your Journey Through Hell

During our shared trip through the space-time travel on Hell planet there are a few sparks of joy that can bring us away from the eternal blistering of our toes from the hot coals of the soil. Despite such burning, these sparks ignite a reverie that can take us away from pain and send us, albeit momentarily, into a dream-like state where we can find a comfy, sometimes delicious respite.

This first delicacy is Mario. The able-bodied, stalwart man of fortitude can make us feel a true range of emotions. Through his “Wahoo!” to his “Maaama!” we can find ourselves taken to new planes. Many of Mario’s cohorts and chums are also quite charismatic and high jinks often ensue.

Another delicacy you are possibly enjoying at this very moment is the written word. As we all know from our old pal John, in the beginning was the Word, and it was good. For such a trustworthy fellow to make such a declaration, I wouldn’t be able to believe it wasn’t true, even if you held otherwise up to my face! And even if you were to do that it would probably be in the form of written word and as we all know, it is good.

The third delicacy you will encounter is the ruler of this web zone, the Spaghetti Soup. Now none of us know where the Soup came from but it has ensnared us all in it’s web, graciously carrying us above the hot soil of coals and nipping mites in its wet embrace. For as long as you trust in the Soup Web you will forever be satiated with the Everlong Noodle, and the Eternal Broth which is ever-changing to what will sate our appetites the most. And while we hang in these hammocks of web we will always be within an arms length of another compatriot among the Web.

Ah, yes, within the Soup Web we find the fourth delicacy, our bedfellows. The ones who, despite their own scalding toes, will still regale us in conversation inherent for such a zone as the Soup Web. These fellows rejoice in sharing their words and artistic expression to delight themselves and those around them. And as it is to them, it is to us, by bringing joy to these fellows, we ourselves gain equal amounts of joy back. Through this cycle, we can pull each other through this journey on Hell planet and maybe one day our toes will heal.

Now the final delicacy is referred to as such despite how it is seemingly readily available to everyone at all times. This delicacy is yourself. This delicacy is something that one must gain an acquired taste for, just as with a spirit or a foreign flavour not accustomed to one’s palette. There are some that inherently revel in this delicacy however, those are not ones of the Soup Web, for the only way to end up ensnared is to fall into the pit of despair in realizing one’s own nature. Through this realization we fight and strive to taste the delicacy that is loving one’s self despite our own failings.

This journey we all partake on has barely just begun. As we learn to embrace these five delicacies, we learn to fight against the coals and whatever else Hell planet has to offer. So grab a book, grab a noodle, and revel in the joyous rapture of “Wahoos!” alongside your compatriots in this never ending bowl of Spaghetti Soup.

All Good in the Hood?

The Imp is away! Today, she starts a full-time job Saving the World (in her own way), and so I must once more contend with the feeling of Being Alone. The Imp has been home for over six months now, ever since her university transitioned to online courses only. I have become used to her constant presence. Now, I must rediscover the world of myself. I am beginning by writing an essay:

“All Good In The Hood? An Exploration of my Current Mental State”
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I have recently become unable to sleep for more than one hour at a time. My nights are a series of intermittent checkings of a clock. 1:30, 2:30, 3:30, 4:30… Each time I wake, I rewind my audiobook to where it left off and settle back to sleep. I am awake enough to remember that I awoke, and nothing more.

It used to be that I would wake up once or twice in the middle of the night in order to urinate. My body is wholly unwilling to store such vile liquids within itself for long periods of time; eight hours without releasing them is simply beyond its capabilities. Recently, I have made an attempt not to hydrate my body at all for up to 2 hours before bed. I still wake up, but I do not urinate. I wake up more, in fact. Who is to say what is the deal with things such as this?

This morning The Imp had to rise at 6:40am, which, for her, is remarkably early. Thankfully, her nerves (it is her first day, after all) propelled her out of bed ten minutes prior, and the alarms did naught but wake me out of my semi-slumber. When she left, I was so overcome with my feeling of freedom, that I too jumped out of bed, and proceeded to throw my morning out of a window.

Ah, these windows, there are too many of them! It seems I can not pass one without throwing a day or two out of it. Just where does the time go? Before I knew it, noon had reared its beautiful head, and I was struck with the desire to nap. And that I did. When I awoke with clear eyes, I saw that my destiny today (since my multiple attempts to start work on my novel were met with little success) was to clean house. A few hours later, here I am, sitting in the living room (the office seems so stuffy when I am alone in such a large apartment), watching every surface in the house gleam with cleanliness. What a feeling! And I did the laundry to boot.

So, is all good in the hood? A man happened to ask me this just the other day. This man works at the liquor store around the corner from my produce store. He passed my co-worker and I, who were deep in our first conversation in over a year (I am naturally shy), and spoke those four words: “All good in the hood?” Naturally, I responded with: “what?” He repeated his question. I said, “I don’t know dude, it’s fine.” By the time I finished this reply, the man had already walked away. I turned to my co-worker, and finished the thought I had begun before the interruption: “It’s probably best to just not pay attention to anything.”

I have banished the world from my thoughts; you may yell and scream all you like, but you can not reach me now. I am secluded in a mind palace. I built this mind palace because every time I approach the world, I am thrust back in astonishment at my inability to understand its workings. Every time I am online, I am saying, “Who are these people? What are they talking about?” Of course, I know the contents of current events; I am no fool. I know the historical context too, more often than not. However, understanding events and histories does me no good, because I simply do not understand people. Perhaps it is my interest in history that has made me unable to absorb myself in the present day. In any case, I understand, before you go and tell me, that this is my own failing.

I created my current mindset in self-defence. It is almost a built-in antidepressant. For the future, I felt fear, and for the past, I felt shame. For the present, I felt disdain. In order to rid myself of these negative feelings, I endeavoured to eradicate feelings of any sort, at least to the extent that such is possible. I have opinions, but they exist behind qualifications and hesitations so deep that I rarely express them even to myself. I have emotional reactions, but they are limited to the world that directly affects me. I feel anger only when I am not understood. I feel sadness only when I become aimless. I feel happiness only when the source of my happiness is right in front of my eyes. I can not concern myself with the happenings of other sides of the Earth, or even other sides of the city.

I used to idolize monkhood and any semblance of asceticism. Nowadays, I have grown more skeptical. I think I have come as far as I can go when it comes to renouncing the world. It is time, I think, for me to return. That is why I am writing again. I have a hope that my novels will save the world, in their own way. I have a hope that my work at the produce store is a benefit to Earth. I smile at people. I ask them how they are doing. For some of them, I am the only person that day who will greet them with a smile. It is the absolute least I can do. Hey, you can do it too, if you feel like it.

I argue often with The Imp about science and fiction (although rarely about science fiction). These arguments generally revolve around my skepticism about the ability of scientific progress to save the world. Oftentimes, she is correct. I am simply difficult. I refuse to believe in progress, and I refuse to believe in value. I refuse to believe in much of anything, to be honest. I believe in fiction, but what the nature of this belief is, I can not say.

I appreciate science only when it is aesthetically appealing to me. I think there are hard limits to where scientific research ceases to be helpful; when I say this, I am referring to its applicability to human happiness (to use a word I dislike). Can science help make our lives better? It can certainly extend our lives; it can limit our pain and our suffering (in certain respects); it can free us from certain burdens. However, I always have the feeling that the more we learn, the more new ways we find to be miserable, and the more we lose those connections to the beauty of Earth that can eradicate this misery. My thoughts on this subject sound pedestrian; in truth, they are not fully formed. One day, perhaps, I will find an opportunity to explore this topic more thoroughly (the question still remains: would it be worth it?)

What I appreciate most about science is that it can provide us with new avenues of thought. My life is simply a quest for interesting thoughts. When I happen on one, I swallow it up. I digest it slowly. Much later, I exude this thought in the form of a piece of writing. By the time I write it, I have often forgotten where the thought came from, or that I ever ingested it at all. It seems to come out of my own brain. A clever trick, that.

In other news, there was a day last week in which I was actually busy, a rarity in a lifestyle such as mine. As it turns out, much of this business came to naught, and that which did not come to naught came to very little at all. Alas, a man must make his day’s pay, which I did, although I could have done without much of the worry it entailed. I am a worrier at heart; I simply can not help it, and no matter how trivial a task, a looming deadline is sure to send me into fits of despair. I do not work well with time constraints; in fact, I would often prefer if time did not exist at all. What is the use of knowing the time? Ah, for a man such as I, time is no matter. Unfortunately, many of the people with money to give away in exchange for labour do not feel the same way. It is just another way in which I must compromise with the world.

By the way, this morning as I ate my breakfast, a gamut of birds congregated on the trees outside my window. There were chickadees, juncos, starlings, finches, the requisite crows, and even my good friend, the Northern Flicker. There was even a species of bird that I could not idenfity, even with flipping through the pages of my bird book twice over. Ah, even without a name, its song was just as sweet.

In opposition to our expectations, birds were relatively scarce around our house during the summer. Perhaps this is because food is more plentiful, so they find the time to wander around non-human-infested environments. As the fall and winter approach, their reliance on bird feeders and the like might increase, prompting a return to the city. This is simply my hypothesis. At any rate, it was a joy to see them all back again.

So, is all good in the hood? Well, now that I’ve sat here and thought about it all, I would say that yes, in fact, all is good in the hood. The birds are singing, the house is clean, the laundry is done, the sun is shining, and The Imp is saving the world. And I am here, where I belong, saving the world in my own way.

Legends of Love and Luck – Chapter Four

Xiu Wen walked through the forest in search of a certain herb that would grant her husband Hurly-Burly the speed necessary to reach the Red Capital in a certain amount of time. Suddenly, she was caught in a spider web.

Legends of Love and Luck is a collaborative epic novel composed by Balckwell and Hoober, for publication on the Soup Web Zone. It is inspired by Classical Chinese Novels such as Journey to the West, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Bandits of the Water-Margin. Odd-numbered chapters will be composed by Balckwell, and even-numbered chapters by Hoober. We hope you enjoy the result.

Chapter Four

Xiu Wen and Distant Octopus Converge Inside the Green Onion Forest /

Infidel Carbonate and Burly-Hurly Converge Outside the GreyTown Garbage Heap

Xiu Wen walked through the forest in search of a certain herb that would grant her husband Hurly-Burly the speed necessary to reach the Red Capital in a certain amount of time. Suddenly, she was caught in a spider web. In the resulting confusion, she felt a hand reach out to grab her, and heard someone say the name “Distant Octopus.” With her renowned wits and quick mind, Xiu Wen easily deduced that the speaker was none other than her old friend, Distant Octopus.

Continue reading “Legends of Love and Luck – Chapter Four”

Coming Across a Carb Sacrifice

Several weeks ago, while the imp and I were on our regular walk, we came across a suspicious collection of materials piled on the sidewalk. As we grew nearer, the pile became clearer; ‘Ah,’ we said, ‘Another carb sacrifice.’

I don’t know if carb sacrifices are common where you are. Around here, you see them every now and again. In recent years, the trend is more towards indoor carb offerings, but there are still the traditionalists who stick firmly to the belief that the only place for a proper carb sacrifice is on the sidewalk outside your home.

This particular carb sacrifice that we came across was a real smorgasbord: cereal, bread, dry pasta, grains. It covered it all. They must be in a lot of trouble; either that, or they have very lofty aspirations. We wondered, the imp and I, at what god or gods this particular carb offering was directed towards. You used to be able to tell for sure – Po’ssef was really the only carb god in town. Nowadays, with the spread of the internet, a lot of heresies of varying degreees have gained popularity. For example, followers of the Biggums cult deny the place of bread in a carb offering – they consider it a bit too Catholic, I suppose.

If you’re looking to learn about the origins and etiquette of carb sacrifices, I would reccomend “Carbohydratical Offerings: A Survey of the West Coast Varieties” by Biggum Wiggum (no relation to the Biggums cult.) The main thing to keep in mind if you’d like to start offering at home is to clear your house of any rats, ants, or any pest of that sort. It can cause a real headache. Sacrifices performed outside are better for this reason, but then you face the possibility of an outright Crow Congregation, which you will want to avoid for reasons you might suspect. It used to be common knowledge how to avoid such a disaster, but unfortunately the techniques have been for the most part lost to time, and can only be found in certain hard-to-come-upon resource materials.

I am no more than a passing amateur when it comes to such scholarship. All I know, I have overheard while behind various fences, or in various bushes. I was behind these fences and in these bushes for very different reasons, but that’s the beauty of secret hiding places, you never come away empty-handed.