+ Adventure Master +
waaait, poppy said, and all five of them looked at her. twitching. the mood in the room was despondent over the recent carnage (in fact, they were all dead).
you’re all dead, said a young man at the end of the table.
wait, poppy said again. just hold up there, bro. let’s just say i’m only blinded from the attack. and even then i’m blinded but i’m not blinded, you know. i’m not blinded blinded. i can still get out of this. i can still escape. i can walk without my eyes. i can see with my feet. my character is closest to the south entrance of the lair, i’m right there, all i have to do is back up, straight, into the main hall. come on. let me roll. let me roll for it, let the dice see for me. it’s totally possible, bro. i can totally get out of here. i remember everything from the way in. i remember it all. seriously. i remember the feel of smooth stone around the south doorway. i remember the demonic idol that sits in the first alcove, and i won’t listen to his whispers. i remember the hall runs east for a good two hundred feet before it turns left, to the north. i remember the rough mosaic of the chanting death apaches running along the west wall. the sweet smell of fresh rain and bloody shadows. i remember the tingling of the electric zombie field at the intersection where i need to turn left again, and go west. ignoring the open doorway on the south wall, and the floral aroma there, like jade vines strangling perfumed monkeys. and if i encounter the sickening breath of the deranged doppelgänger i will say, hold up, doppelgänger, you are nothing without me, because i am you and you are me. and that doppelgänger will listen, he will fold under my cold logic. and if i run into one of the lurking doom shadows, i will say, just a second, lurking doom shadow, but you need me more than i need you, you have no shape without my form, and your very shade is sustained my manifestation in the universe. and that lurking doom shadow will listen, too. he will skulk away. leaving me free to go west, past the scientists of sorrow, past the crawling night ninjas, and the mint-flavoured golem, and of course the fire spiders. don’t worry, i’m not forgetting the shrieking policemen or the hyperventilating skeleton band. and i’m really not forgetting the miniature ice comet on its orbit through the labyrinth, that subtle sizzle-sounding swoosh of its approach. i will duck. then, when i get to the pool of moaning souls, i’ll turn right, and north. i should feel outside air coming down the stairwell. and then it’s just back up to the doleful forest and frozen mountains of despair and i’m away. no problem.
the other three kids around the dining table shifted in their seats, watching the tall young man who sat at the end, half hidden behind a miniature cardboard screen, as he adjusted his wire-rim glasses. fine, the young man said. i’m impressed by your poetry, little sister. you can roll away, and we’ll see what the dice say. just don’t call me ‘bro’ – i’m the Adventure Master, remember.
this is bullshit, said a fat kid with pizza stains on his t-shirt. remind me why a girl is here again?
shut up and let her roll, a redhead with braces hissed.
the other kid, a lumpy thirteen year-old named herman, said nothing.
poppy touched her beret for luck and rolled the twenty-sided dice. the fat kid who’d made the ‘bullshit’ comment snickered girlishly at the result.
sorry, poppy, the young man behind the screen said. but i guess you’re blinded-blinded after all. and half-incinerated from the seven-headed pyromaniac hydra-dragon hybrid attack. you try to stumble away, over the charred bodies of your friends––
comrades, poppy interrupted.
––over the charred bodies of your comrades, the young man continued. but the pain is disorienting. crippling, even. and you soon fall down in a twitching heap. unfortunately, the last thing you hear is the wet muscle of multiple jaws, slowly opening.
so we’re really all dead? poppy said.
until next week, the adventure master said. then you can all roll for new characters.
this is bullshit, the fat kid said.
later, walking home in the dark, poppy closed her eyes to the sidewalk, to the street, to its lamps. she went one block, opened her eyes at the corner, then closed them again and went two more. then, her eyes still closed, she cut through the park. the fall air became a slight wind on her face. she stopped. she took off her beret. she stood still. she stood still and listened, for a long time, to the faint swooshing sounds that miniature ice comets make.
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My original artwork (second image) had a young girl at top right, sitting on a leaf and playing with a toy truck (a large part of the story revolves around bee-keeping trips a young girl takes with her dad), but there were some fears about that appearing too YA. I think the cropped version is still pretty successful.
mixed media on masonite board
8 x 10 inches
collage and texture and heavy paint, tears amid collapsing and blackened parts
for a short story about glamorously doomed robots
like fugitives on the news, everything shipped comes with an art surprise
mister badger wears a monocle
watercolour on found paper